From more balanced circadian rhythms to a healthier immune system, owning a dog can have a variety of beneficial effects on your health and well-being.
1. Circadian rhythms.
Most dogs thrive on routine, and some literally seem to know exactly what time it is—especially as the minutes tick toward mealtime, when you might find them whining, howling, or pacing anxiously, with a look of concern that you might have forgotten dinner. Many dogs and cats wake up at a fixed time each morning, too, and this is a perfect way to ensure your circadian rhythm—your very own built-in body clock—stays on track, too. A consistent wake-up time helps ensure better sleep, which means pet owners are often more rested (unless of course they’re in the midst of puppy training) and therefore, healthier, as a result.
2. Forced activity.
Dogs need exercise; there’s no two ways about it. Some breeds are considerably more active than others, but even if they don’t need an hourlong run, they all have a need to get outside and do their business and take a walk around the block, at the very least. This forced activity is inherently beneficial for owners; it gets the heart pumping, joints and muscles moving, helps to alleviate aches and pains, exposes us to fresh air, can bring us in contact with drizzle, which is good for the skin and a bit of sun generates much-needed, immunity-enhancing vitamin D, to boot.
3. Fewer hangovers.
Having a pet is a big responsibility. Dogs in particular really don’t like to be left alone for very long stretches of time. This has the side effect of ensuring that would-be very late nights are frequently curbed because of the need to be home with one’s pup. An earlier home time means fewer drinks are drunk, and thus, a hopefully less groggy morning, fewer headaches, and a healthier liver, too.
4. Being present.
One thing dogs are great at is living in the moment and being totally present for everything they do. While some pups can absolutely get distracted by the whiff of food or a squeaky toy, most of them have an incredible ability to totally immerse themselves in whatever they’re doing at any given time. It could be the thrill of the chase in hot pursuit of a squirrel, devouring a meal without glancing up, or simply sitting perfectly still without fidgeting, wriggling, or shifting positions incessantly. Dog owners can learn a thing or two from their canine counterparts and practice mindful stillness, simple gratitude, or complete and utter presence in the things they do.
5. Enhanced immunity.
An overly sanitized home actually creates adverse long-term effects on health. Luckily, dogs have dander and they also carry a plethora of germs. Germs can be a good thing because they help develop more robust immunity. Children who are raised around dogs tend to have stronger immune systems than their dogless friends. Research has shown that infants raised with a dog or cat have fewer coughs and colds and also tend to suffer less with allergies and asthma. One study found that babies who were raised in homes with dogs or cats were 44 percent less likely to suffer from ear infections and 29 percent less likely to be prescribed antibiotics, compared with those who were raised without a pet.