Power of Paws: The Benefits of Dog Ownership

April 10, 2024

This month we’re celebrating our canine companions, and in honor of Hug Your Dog Day (April 10) and National Pet Day (April 11), we’re exploring a few of the ways dogs (and other furry friends!) enhance and improve our lives for the better.

Did you know that beyond the cheerful tail-wags and comforting cuddles, pet ownership also provides tangible benefits to our overall health and well-being? That’s right, in addition to the companionship and loyalty your furry friend provides, being a pet owner can make you a healthier person! Here’s how.

Walk Your Way to Well-Being

There’s nothing like a walk around the block to get you up and out, and what better motivation than a four-legged friend waiting by the door to get you moving. Behold the power of a daily walk! A regular walking schedule provides a host of benefits for all involved. Did you know that dog owners who take daily walks are more likely to meet recommended daily exercise levels than those without a dog? Walking not only improves muscle strength and cardiovascular health, it also helps to maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of hypertension and diabetes. What’s more, daily exposure to sunlight and fresh air can improve mental health and is even proven to boost your mood. So, grab the leash, throw on those walking shoes, and get outside!

A Faithful Friend for All Seasons

They say “a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself,” and those who have experienced their unflinching loyalty and boundless affection know it to be true. A dog’s unconditional love knows no bounds, as they greet us with wagging tails and wet kisses, grateful for the simple things in life. For many older adults, especially those who live on their own, just the presence of a dog at home can help prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Even the simple gesture of petting or cuddling with your dog helps to reduce stress and release oxytocin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and positivity. Like a natural form of therapy, simply spending time with your dog can have a significant effect on your emotional well-being, reducing anxiety and depression and boosting your self-esteem and overall happiness. From couch cuddles to belly-rubs, puppy-dog eyes to nosy nuzzles, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better best friend!

Brain Boosters

The long-term benefits of daily routines include better sleep, less stress, healthier and more active lives, and perhaps even greater life satisfaction. Dogs, with their predictable internal clocks and daily feeding and exercise needs, thrive on routine, and in doing so keep their owners accountable day in and day out. Feeding, grooming, and caring for a dog is an inherent way for older adults to stay engaged and on a schedule. Playing with your pup, whether it’s a simple game of fetch or teaching them a new trick, helps to stimulate the brain and gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

What’s more, having a dog in tow can spark social interactions with others in the community. Whether it’s connecting with fellow dog owners at the park or participating in training classes, the presence of a dog can serve as a catalyst for meaningful social engagement across social boundaries and generations, a natural way to preserve cognitive health and promote quality of life for older adults.