Maximize Wellbeing

Maximize Wellbeing: The Health Benefits of Having a Dog Revealed

Pets provide companionship, love, entertainment, and endless social media content, but did you know about all the amazing health benefits of having a dog? Pets in general and dogs in particular are excellent for your physical and mental health, and there are lots of studies to prove it.

While having a dog isn’t the right decision for everybody, dog ownership can be life-changing in the best ways for numerous reasons.

Keep reading to learn more about the incredible benefits of having a dog and some things to consider before bringing a pup into your life.


The Multifaceted Benefits of Owning a Dog

We could talk endlessly about the many perceived benefits of having a dog, but here are some actual science-backed benefits of owning a dog.

Alleviates Stress

Unfortunately, life in the 21st century comes with numerous stressors. Luckily, having a dog can help manage your stress levels so you’re better able to function in this crazy world.

Studies done with school children, university students, nursing students, and many other groups have consistently shown that time spent with dogs helps to decrease stress. While some aspects of dog ownership may cause stress (such as worrying about being able to afford veterinary care), it’s clear that time spent with a dog is an overall stress reliever. 


Reduces Loneliness and Increases Socialization

If you’re shy, introverted, or autistic, you may struggle to make and keep (human) friends. Fortunately, dogs themselves provide excellent companionship, and walking your dog or taking them to a dog park is a great way to meet people. Those are just some of the ways that dog ownership has been shown to reduce loneliness in people of all ages, from kids to senior citizens.

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Improves Heart Health

Hate going to the gym but still want to improve your heart health and cardiovascular fitness? Owning a dog (which requires daily walks, unlike a cat) can help you get exercise without feeling like you’re working out.

In a large review of studies published between 1950 and 2019, dog owners were shown to be 31% less likely to die from cardiovascular (heart) problems than non-dog-owners. Additionally, dog ownership was shown to come with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality.


Helps Cope With PTSD

As many as 30% of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans, plus about 6% of the overall US population, struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Whether it’s a regular pet, an emotional support animal, or a service animal, having a dog can help relieve symptoms of PTSD.

One study showed that military veterans with PTSD benefitted from having either an emotional support dog or a service dog. Although vets with service dogs had a greater reduction in PTSD symptoms than those with emotional support dogs, both groups of vets did experience improvements in their quality of life and functioning.

Another study showed that veterans with psychiatric service dogs showed lower PTSD symptom severity than veterans who were on a waiting list for a service dog but who had not received one yet.

Improved Bone and Joint Health

Encourages Exercise

Whether you’re already active and want a pet to join you on your adventures or whether you realize you’re too sedentary and want a walking buddy to get you on a healthier path, various studies have shown that dog owners tend to be more physically active than non-dog owners: 

  • •One study found that patients with ischemic heart disease who walked their dogs at least once a week got more exercise than heart patients without dogs.

  • •A review of 9 studies showed that children who live with dogs tend to get more exercise than those who don’t.

  • •A large review of studies published between 1990 and 2010 showed that dog owners engage in more physical exercise than non-dog owners.


Boosts Happiness

If you have depression, a chronic illness, or just the occasional bout of the blues, owning a dog can help improve your mood and quality of life.

A survey of people living with HIV showed that noncurrent dog owners were 3 times more likely to suffer from depression than current dog owners. Another study showed that dog owners experienced higher levels of oxytocin (the “love hormone”) after making prolonged eye contact with their dogs.


Benefits for Seniors

Even if they’re only exposed to the animals during animal-assisted therapy and they don’t own pets themselves, numerous studies have shown that dogs provide various benefits to seniors, such as:

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Understanding Why Dogs Are the Best Pets

Now, let’s look beyond the studies and dive deeper into the benefits of having a dog.

How Dogs Provide Unconditional Love and Support

According to PsychCentral, unconditional love is “the selfless act of loving someone with full acceptance and without expecting anything in return.” While they might show a slight preference for the person who feeds them, dogs are overall excellent providers of unconditional love.

How do dogs show their unconditional love for the humans in their lives? Here are a few examples:

  • •Following you

  • •Licking you

  • •Cuddling

  • •Getting excited when you come home

  • •Wagging their tail high and fast (a low, slow tail wag can indicate stress or uncertainty)

  • •Bringing you their bones or toys

  • •Staring into your eyes

  • •Leaning on you

  • •Sleeping next to or near you

  • •Protecting you

  • •Comforting you

As you can see, it’s all the little things that dogs do all day every day that show you how much they love you, and they ask very little in return. Dogs just want to be loved, fed, groomed, and have their health taken care of.

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Dogs as Catalysts for Mental and Physical Health

If you’re struggling with your mental or physical health, getting a dog may help in lots of different ways:

  • •Walking a dog gives you more exercise, which can help improve your cardiovascular health as well as your mood

  • •Petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure

  • •Various studies have shown that dog ownership can help improve mental health, including this one where 16.7% of studied autistic adults with dogs reported that their dogs prevented them from taking their own lives.

  • •Service dogs greatly help people with a variety of disabilities, including blindness, deafness, mobility problems, PTSD, and autism.

Practical Considerations in Dog Ownership

While there are numerous benefits to having a dog, there are also many practical considerations to think about before bringing a dog into your life that you will be responsible for up to 15 years or longer. Owning a dog changes your life in both positive and negative ways and can be more expensive than you might expect.


Deciding to Own a Dog: Lifestyle and Commitment

Bringing a dog into your life should be a commitment for the pet’s entire life, which may be 10-15 years or even longer. As wonderful as dogs are, bringing one into your life inevitably changes your lifestyle in many ways:

  • •Planning ahead: Spontaneous weekend getaways may become a thing of the past when you have to either book hotels that allow dogs or arrange for somebody to watch your dog while you’re away.

  • •Schedule changes: Dogs need to be let out at least every 8-10 hours to “do their business,” so you won’t be able to work 9 hours in the office followed by drinks with coworkers followed by a date unless you go home in between to let your dog out or hire a dog walker.

  • •Time and attention: Are you a social butterfly who likes to spend your nights and weekends out partying? You might not have the time for a dog.

  • •Responsibility: Owning a dog is a big responsibility. Not only do you need to be able to afford their necessities, but you’re also responsible for their behavior. If you don’t have time to train your dog and they bite somebody, you could get in big trouble.

  • •Destruction: Dogs can destroy your property, especially puppies who don’t know any better and active breeds who don’t get enough exercise.

  • •Shedding: Apart from hairless dogs, all dogs shed, and those hairs either end up all over your home, clothes, and belongings or are trapped in the dog’s coat where they need to be brushed out regularly to prevent painful matting.

  • •Allergies: Friends or family members who are allergic to dogs may not want to visit you in your home anymore if you have a dog.

  • •Grief: When your dog passes away (or if you have to get rid of it for some reason), you are likely to experience intense grief after having bonded with the animal.


The Economic and Social Responsibilities of Dog Ownership

As wonderful as having a dog can be for your physical and mental health, owning a dog can be much more expensive than you might expect. Some of the expenses associated with owning a dog include:

  • •Food: The cheaper the dog food you buy, the more health problems your dog is likely to suffer from. A raw diet is the best food you can feed your dog, but it’s also the most expensive. Kibble is the most affordable food, but it can cause obesity, allergies, and many potentially expensive and life-shortening health problems.

  • •Veterinary care: At a minimum, your dog should get yearly vet exams, and they may need vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, and other regular expenses—and those are for healthy dogs. You never know when your dog might suffer from an ear infection, get sick, become injured, struggle with allergies, or develop a chronic illness that may require expensive medications.

  • •Grooming: At a minimum, you will need to buy all the tools necessary to cut your dog’s nails, clean out your dog’s ears, bathe them, and brush them yourself. Many dogs, however, need regular professional grooming, which can get expensive. Dogs with coats that need cut should get groomed at least every 4-6 weeks, and it’s common courtesy to tip the person who holds pointy scissors near your wiggly dog without injuring them.

  • •Toys, treats, and chews: These items help improve your dog’s quality of life but regularly need to be replaced.

  • •Boarding, pet sitting, daycare, or dog walking: Whether you’re going out of town or simply working too many hours, there are liable to be times in your pet’s life when you will need to pay somebody else to help care for them.

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Jules Saved My Life

Dear Reader, please allow me to step away from facts and studies for a minute and talk about how my dog, Jules, saved my life.

Working from home, I had allowed myself to get so out of shape that I was nearly housebound, as I got winded and experienced back spasms simply from walking my trash out to the dumpster. I decided to adopt a senior dog so I could get into shape by walking it without needing to meet the energy demands of a puppy.

Jules was an 8-year-old Lab mix whose previous family was too busy caring for a toddler and an infant to give her the attention she deserved. She was covered in bald spots from allergies, had a hematoma in one ear due to persistent itching from untreated ear infections, and had arthritis, so frequent short walks would be perfect for both of us.

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Seeing the condition she was in when I first adopted her, one might say that I saved her life. However, she’s the one who saved my life.

Not only did walking her help me get into shape, lose weight, and have a better quality of life physically, but caring for her and having constant companionship also greatly improved my mental health.

Jules is now 10 years old and incredibly spoiled with a high-quality raw diet, allergy medication, lots of short walks, and plenty of cuddles. She’s my best friend and I can only hope that I get many more happy years with her.

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As you can see, being a dog owner comes with many physical and mental benefits, but it’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Owning a dog (especially when you want to feed them the best raw dog food so they can have the longest, healthiest life possible) can be very expensive and will change your life forever, but it may also be the most worthwhile expense you ever have.

Getting a dog may be the most rewarding thing you ever do, as long as you make sure you can truly afford it first so the benefits of owning a dog aren’t outweighed by the financial stress of ensuring your pup is properly cared for.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I get a dog?

Maybe. There are many benefits to owning a dog, including:

  • •Getting more exercise

  • •Reduced stress

  • •Being happier

  • •Less loneliness

  • •Improved heart health

  • •Better overall mental health

  • •Companionship


However, having a dog also comes with many responsibilities and can be more expensive than you might expect. Before deciding to get a dog, make sure you can afford:

  • •Vet visits (both annual and unexpected)

  • •High-quality dog food

  • •Grooming

  • •Treats, toys, and chews

  • •Daycare, boarding, or dog walking

How much do those costs add up to? According to The Dog People:

“In 2023, the upfront costs for new dog parents, to set your home and new pup up for success, may range from $1,135 to $5,155. Annual costs for the essentials, from dog food and toys to flea medicine, range from $610 on the low end to $3,555 on the high end. Lastly, the optional extras cost most dog parents between $1,390 and $4,095 per year.”


Why are dogs the best pets?

Dogs aren’t the best pets for everybody, but for those who love them, dogs are the best pets because they:

  • •Get you outside

  • •Help you get more exercise

  • •Improve your mental health

  • •Help you socialize while out on walks

  • •Provide companionship

  • •Improve your physical health

  • •Make you happy

  • •Relieve stress

If you think a dog may be the best pet for you, make sure you can afford all the costs associated with a dog before bringing one into your life.


What are the benefits of owning a dog?

Some of the many benefits of owning a dog include:

  • •Stress relief

  • •Instant boost of happiness

  • •Better physical health

  • •Full-time companionship

  • •More chances to socialize

  • •Better mental health

  • •Permanent exercise buddy

  • •More fresh air and sunshine

Playing with dogs

Why dogs are the best pets?

Many people believe that dogs are the best pets because dogs:

  • •Force you to get more exercise

  • •Help you socialize with other people

  • •Make you happy

  • •Reduce stress

  • •Improve your physical health

  • •Make great friends

  • •Get you out into the sun and fresh air more often

Puppy and Toy

Why are dogs good pets?

Lots of people think dogs are good pets because they:

  • •Need regular walks in the fresh air and sun

  • •Make it easier to socialize with people

  • •Provide excellent companionship

  • •Improve your physical and mental health

  • •Can help reduce your stress levels

  • •Are fun to play with

  • •Provide unconditional love

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What are the benefits of having a pet?

Some of the many benefits of having a pet include:

  • •Reduced levels of stress, depression, or anxiety

  • •Less loneliness

  • •Improved cardiovascular health

  • •Getting more exercise

  • •Companionship

  • •Adding routine and structure to your day

  • •Helping you meet new people


What are the advantages of having dogs?

Some of the many advantages of having dogs include:

  • •More exercise

  • •Better physical health

  • •Less loneliness

  • •Improved mental health

  • •Instant companionship

  • •Structure and routine

  • •Stress relief

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How many people have dogs?

About 65.1 million households in the United States have dogs, and there are approximately 471 million dogs in the world.

Dog and kid

How do dogs help humans?

Dogs help humans in many different ways, including:

  • •Providing companionship

  • •Improving mental health

  • •Helping people exercise and improve their physical health

  • •Adding structure and routine to the day

  • •Guiding blind people

  • •Providing hearing alerts for deaf people

  • •Providing mobility assistance for people with limited mobility

  • •Helping people with PTSD, autism, anxiety, and other issues

Why do people like dogs?

Why do people like dogs?

People like dogs for lots of reasons, including that they:

  • •Are amazing companions

  • •Improve mental health

  • •Help you get more exercise

  • •Reduce stress and anxiety

  • •Can be goofy

  • •Improve your quality of life

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Ready for a Dog? Feed Them Raw!

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