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Benefits of Having a Dog

Four Minutes Aug 19, 2022

If you’re lucky enough to call a canine a member of the family, then you already know the many benefits of having a dog: unconditional love, a playful spirit to lift your mood on a rainy day, a faithful fellow adventurer, a loyal and trusted friend, and so much more.

What you may not have realized is that your furry friend may actually be making you healthier! In fact, there’s been a great deal of research that suggests dogs may offer their human companions a variety of real health benefits.

Below, check out nine ways dogs can improve our physical, mental, and even social well-being.

Dogs Keep Us Active and Help Us Exercise

According to the American Kennel Club, dog owners spend more time walking and engaging in other playful activities than non-dog owners, helping to lead more active lifestyles.2 Energetic breeds require more exercise, which can also help families meet recommended daily exercise requirements. Since engaging in regular exercise is an important factor in reducing certain health risks, dog ownership could also improve our health in other ways.

Dogs Can Improve Our Heart Health

One of the most noted health benefits of having a dog is a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies by the American Heart Association have shown that time spent with dogs can lower blood pressure and heart rates — two key indicators of heart disease.3 In addition, some research shows that dogs improve rehabilitation efforts after major cardiovascular events.

Dogs Can Help Lower Our Stress Levels

On another positive note related to heart health, research on the impact of therapy dogs has shown that our furry family members reduce stress. A Washington State University study found that just 10 minutes of petting a dog caused reduced cortisol production (a major stress hormone).4

Dogs Make Us Feel Less Lonely

Feelings of social isolation — like disconnection and loneliness — are more and more common nowadays. Luckily, dogs may be able to help. Research has shown that both dog ownership and time spent with therapy dogs reduce feelings of social isolation. One study published in BMC Public Health showed that owners who got a new dog reported experiencing less feelings of loneliness in as little as 3 months.5

A woman with dark curly hair holds her terrier.

Dogs Can Help Young Children Build Stronger Immune Systems

Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association have shown that infants and small children who share a home with a dog have a lower risk of developing both allergies and asthma later in life.6 Children with pets may also be less likely to develop allergy-related skin conditions like eczema.

If you’re thinking it’s time to introduce a dog into your household, check out our list of family-friendly breeds.

Dogs Can Help Seniors With Cognitive Function

Studies observing therapy dogs and senior populations have shown that dogs may help seniors with dementia and those living long-term care facilities.7,8 Pet therapy seems to help seniors stay more engaged during activities, improve relationships with other residents and staff, and decrease progressive social withdrawal that many with dementia and other mental illness experience.

Dogs Help Ease Anxiety

Mental health benefits of owning a dog are not just for older people, and your pup doesn’t need to be legally classified as an emotional support dog to actually provide emotional support for you and your children. In fact, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found children with a dog had lower instances of anxiety compared to children without a dog at home.9 So kids who grow up with a canine best friend actually have a better chance of becoming happy and healthy teenagers and adults.

Service Dogs Can Help Disabled Owners Live More Independently

Canine companions play a vital role as service dogs and emotional support animals for many disabled Americans and veterans. They help many people remain independent by:

●      Performing tasks like opening and closing doors

●      Providing a sense of safety and comfort for those with PTSD

●      Making the world easier to navigate for blind and deaf people

●      Predicting seizures, making life easier for those with epilepsy

●      Aiding autistic children in developing social skills and improving communication

Dogs Help Us Stay Social

Dogs can help facilitate interactions between people, creating new friends and connections for their owners.10 When out for daily walks, many owners made new friends and felt that their dog helped boost their confidence to chat with a stranger.

These results may go beyond the interactions of individuals. Higher rates of dog ownership have been linked to a stronger sense of community. Just look at your local dog park!

Thank Your Dog for a Happier, Healthier Life

These are only some of the many benefits owning a dog can bring. So take a moment to thank your canine companion for the ways they enrich your life. And remember the next time you have to take them to the vet or soothe them during a thunderstorm, that the relationship is two-sided. While your dog is helping you live your best life, make sure you help them live theirs! Keep them safe and give yourself peace of mind with a dog insurance policy from MetLife.1

Protect your Dog

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1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 “10 Science-Based Benefits of Having a Dog,” American Kennel Club

3 “Dog Ownership Associated With Longer Life, Especially Among Heart Attack and Stroke Survivors,” American Heart Association 

4 “Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Patricia Pendry, et al., Washington State University

5 “Companion Dog Acquisition and Mental Well-Being: A Community-Based Three-Arm Controlled Study,” BMC Public Health

6 “Early Exposure to Dogs and Farm Animals and the Risk of Childhood Asthma,” Tove Fall, PhD, et al., Journal of the American Medical Association

7 “Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy On Agitated Behaviors and Social Interactions of Older Adults with Dementia,” Nancy E. Richeson, PhD, American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias

8 “Pet Therapy In Elderly Patients with Mental Illness,”  Francesca Moretti, et al., National Library of Medicine

9 “Pet Dogs and Children’s Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention?,” Anne M. Gadomski, MD, MPH, et al., Center for Disease Control

10 “The Pet Factor--Companion Animals as a Conduit for Getting to Know People, Friendship Formation and Social Support,” Lisa Wood, et al., National Library of Medicine

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