Bringing a dog into your home is a great way to add a little bit of extra love to your family. More than 65 million families have at least one pet in the United States, with more than 60 million dogs.
If you do more with your dog, you and your family will reap the benefits. These canine companions protect us, play with us, and snuggle with us when we’re tired or feeling low. Some studies have shown they can even help us live longer.
Want to do more with your dog? Let’s take a look at how your favorite furry friend could help you live a longer, healthier life.
A Study by the Numbers
In Sweden, dog ownership is recorded in a national registry, and researchers from Uppsala University used that information, as well as information on human hospital visits, to determine how living with a dog can change our lives.
After reviewing the records of 3.4 million people who didn’t already have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease starting in 2001, they found that owning a dog lowers a person’s risk of developing heart disease, even if they smoke or are overweight. That’s a great reason to do more with your dog.
This became even more apparent in individuals living alone with a dog. Having a furry companion reduced the risk of death for these individuals by 33 percent, and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 11 percent.
The Swedish researchers haven’t yet looked into the underlying causes of these results, but the results are clear — doing more with your dog makes you a healthier person and reduces your risk of heart disease and death.
While researchers haven’t discovered the underlying cause as to why owning a dog helps make you healthier, they do have their theories.
One theory looks at the breed of the dog. Humans who own hunting breeds, like hounds, retrievers and terriers, had a lower risk of heart disease. This may be because these breeds need more exercise in order to thrive, so in turn, their owners need to be more active.
Another theory suggests that these benefits start young — growing up in a household with a dog could help prevent the development of asthma and allergies in young children. This may be due to the exposure to animal dander at a young age, but could also be due to the effect that having a dog has on a person’s microbiome — the healthy bacteria that exist within the human body.
Beyond the Walks
There are plenty of activities you can do with your dog aside from walking him and playing fetch.
First, take a look at your dog’s breed and personality. This might be a little difficult if your dog was rescued from the local animal shelter, but you can get an idea of his or her personality by just playing with them a little bit.
Does your dog have some hunting breed in them — do they root around in the tall grass searching for the ball you just threw? Do they have some herder in them — trying to round up other animals or small children to keep them safe? Do they like water, or do they hate the idea of going swimming?
Once you have an idea of their personality — and keep in mind, this can take a while if you’ve just brought your new furry friend home for the first time — you can start planning your activities. Plan walks or hikes for herding breeds or take them to your local leash-free park.
Find a dog-friendly beach for your pups that love the water. Not only is it great exercise, but it can be a great way to socialize with other dogs.
Do More With Your Dog
It may take a while to figure out exactly what type of activities your pet enjoys. They’re just like humans in that not all dogs will enjoy the same thing. Once you figure out what your dog likes to do, though, all it takes is a little bit of time on your part.
Plan some fun activities to do with your dog. You’ll both be happier and healthier for it.
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