Friday, April 24, 2009

6 Health Benefits of Dog Ownership

After writing about fitness in the great outdoors, I've had an itching to get outside. I brushed the dust off the old jogging stroller yesterday, and took the kids for what turned into a 3-hour outing to the park. I ran, we fed the ducks, we went to the park, my 2-year-old insisted on pushing the stroller (and yelling at me for helping him as I steered it back onto the trail every 5 seconds). When you're pushing a massive stroller with 2 kids inside, you get a lot of attention. "Oh wow. You've got quite a load there." "You can do it! You're almost to the end." "Oh look at them in there, Harry." "Moooooom! Go faster!" I'm sure I look a bit ridiculous. You can't exactly sprint while pushing 90 lbs. of stroller and babies. The only people who probably get more attention than me are the ones pushing a stroller AND holding onto a dog leash.

We saw so many people out walking dogs yesterday. And I remembered something. I want one. My kids want one. My husband even wants one. Every well-adjusted family should have a dog. But I'm not sure I can deal with dog poop right now. I'm barely handling the human variety. So in a near-future season of life, we will be proud dog owners. Proud dog owners of the Golden Retriever variety.

I grew up with a Golden Retriever named Duchess. We got her for Christmas when I was 10. I found out she'd been put to sleep in a letter when I was 22 and in Finland. I was devastated. I cried for days. She was a part of the family. And she was good for us, too.

Last month, a study came out showing that cat owners have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke (nearly 1/3 less!) I will never own a cat. Sorry, cat lovers. I'm allergic and terrified. But if you like 'em, get one! (Just don't make me touch it!) They're good for you, apparently.

"Given that people do gain healthwise from having a strong social network, it makes sense that having an animal companion would also do some good," says Alan Beck, a professor and director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. "Do animals cure everything? Of course not," Beck says. But people relate to animals by nurturing, caring for, and talking to them—much as they do with other humans, so "it's not surprising that people who have relationships with animals actually report benefits."

I know that having a dog was good for our family. Here are 6 reasons every family should have one:
  • A dog teaches children responsibility. They need to be fed, washed, walked, and loved. Studies have also linked pet ownership with high self-esteem in young children, and greater cognitive development. Children with pets also score significantly higher on empathy and pro-social scales! Forget pre-school, I just need to get me a dog!
  • Dogs enhance family life! Dogs reduce tension, increase compassion, and make family walks more fun!
  • Dogs are a great anti-depressant. Feeling blue? Cuddle with your dog for a while. Seriously...dogs increase the release of endorphins, and other pleasure-related hormones.
  • Dog owners have a higher survival rate after a serious illness! Having regular PET visits in the hospital has shown to be even more effective than regular SPOUSE visits. Interesting.
  • Pet owners have lower blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure. (Not to mention fewer doctor visits!) If you've never taken the opportunity to sit and stroke a dog, you're missing out. I need one to pet to lower my mommy-blood-pressure.
  • People who walk their dogs are seen as friendly and approachable! (Pushing kids in the jogging stroller has ALMOST the same effect...EVERYONE wants to talk to me!)

Are you convinced? I'm not sure I can wait 10 more years to get a cute little make-me-vaccuum-a-LOT-more-often pup. How about you? Are you a dog lover? Or do you prefer heart-attack-risk-reducing cats? How has pet ownership improved your quality of life?


Diane said...

A dog, definitely a dog! Duchess was a great one! That's why I'm not getting another one. What dog could ever replace her?! Plus I think she's the jealous type. Good post. However, I don't think you're quite ready for one yet. They do take lots of time in the beginning. Your dad would probably say the opposite!

Michael said...

Thanks for following my advice and writing about dogs. Anne's family has a dog, and I am thoroughly enjoying it's attention. Mom...get a dog!

Missy said...

I think you're right, timing is everything when you want a pet.
It's better to wait untill your children are old enough to grasp the concept of responsibility. Otherwise a pet is just more work for you.
I love my dog, but I really should have waited. Wouldn't be so bad if all she did was poop. Its the part where she rolls in the poop that ticks me off and stresses me out.
Its not like my 7 year old is gonna bath my 60 lb dog effectivly.
When there's cat poop involved, I don't even want her to try. Gross!

Lyenna said...

I LOVE DOGS!!! But I agree they are a lot of work in the beginning. Do you remember when Duchess made Sheppy cry, or at least made her lower jaw quiver? It still makes me laugh thinking about it. I miss Sheppy, too. My kids need a dog, but not until I get a grasp on my own sanity. It's like having another baby and I'm so not ready for another baby:)But we WILL have a dog someday! As for cats, they're okay if they act like dogs. I'm definitely a dog person.

Lindy Merkley said...

Ahh, something dear to my heart! I volunteer at the Humane Society so when you're ready and you want to not only have a great companion, but also save a life. . . give me a call. I'll hook you up with a great dog!!!