Why Should You Get a Dog?
Dogs—what’s not to love? From their goofy grins and couch cuddles to endless hours of entertainment… there’s a long list of reasons to welcome a dog into your home. Call us biased, but we think dogs are pretty great, and we’re pretty sure our own dogs would agree.
If you’ve been considering why you should get a dog, you’ve come to the right place. There are countless benefits of having a dog (many of which are scientifically backed, too).
Keep reading to learn how your physical, mental, and social health will benefit from having a dog in your life.
Reason #1 why you should get a dog: Physical activity and physical health
Although different breeds of dogs have different activity levels, all movement is good movement. Why should you get a dog? Because you’ll have a great—and cute—reason to be physically active.
Dogs encourage fitness and physical well-being. The average dog parent will walk their dog an estimated 160 – 300 minutes per week. People who are able and choose to walk their dogs are statistically more likely to meet their physical activity requirements, which supports a longer, healthier life with your furry best friend.
EXPERT TIP: We aren’t kidding when we say “longer, healthier life.” Welcoming a dog into your world has been scientifically linked to a lower risk of death in the long-term.
Dogs promote heart health. Having a dog doesn’t just tug on your heartstrings—it’s also associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and an increase in survival after a cardiac event. How is this possible? Researchers have found that dogs positively impact our heart by lowering our blood pressure, improving our serum triglycerides (decreasing fat in the bloodstream), and decreasing our stress response.
Dogs prevent physical illness and support a speedy recovery. Dog parents generally have stronger immune systems and recover faster than their dogless counterparts. Did you know that petting a dog actually increases secretion of immunoglobulin A? This helps produce a barrier that can neutralize pathogens before they get a chance to make us sick. Having a dog is also linked to fewer doctor’s office visits, a decrease in minor health problems, the need for fewer medications, and overall improved health. A win-win!
Reason #2 why you should get a dog: Mental health and wellness
The physical benefits of having a dog at home are well documented. The mental health benefits, less so. Some studies support the benefits of having a dog on mental health, while others show no significant difference, and still others show a negative effect.
Here’s our take: just like us humans, every dog is different, and sometimes our pets—no matter how much we love and adore them—can be a source of stress. A dog with behavioural problems, for example, will be harder to manage than one that is generally agreeable and plays well with others. When we layer in our own mental health, this means different people have different tolerances for these types of challenges. If you’re someone who finds a lot of joy in caring for another being (whether they’re on two legs, three legs, or four legs), parenting a pup could be great for you and your mental wellness.
For those who tend to reap the mental health benefits of having a dog, here’s what the experts have found:
EXPERT TIP: This one’s for the dog dads. Men report feeling more supported when they have a dog.
Dogs are happiness boosters and stress relievers. Petting a dog (even if it’s not yours) for 10 minutes can decrease the levels of stress hormone cortisol in our bloodstream. You don’t need to be up close and personal to feel these benefits, either: even gazing at our dogs from across the room can release oxytocin, what’s commonly known as the “love hormone.” Combined, these hormonal responses can lower blood pressure, decrease heart and breathing rates, and relax muscles.
EXPERT TIP: If you have fur and human babies under your roof, especially if your children are young or immune-suppressed, it’s important to keep your dog on a routine deworming schedule. Doing this minimizes the zoonotic transfer of parasites (hello, stress-free snuggles!) and keeps your dog healthy.
Because dogs are social animals, their inclination for unconditional love can do wonders for relieving loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Dogs can also improve our self-esteem, make us more conscientious, and help us cope with social rejection.
Dogs can help us cope with crises. Social interactions play an important role in buffering the physiological and psychological stresses we experience. Most of the time, when a dog sees a human (especially their human) struggling, they increase their level of social support. This increase in interaction and emotional closeness helps decrease our feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Often a physical crisis brings emotional turmoil, but dogs can help mitigate some of those negative effects. For example, cancer patients who receive animal-assisted therapy experienced half the symptoms and severity of both anxiety and depression.
EXPERT TIP: It’s equally important to keep our dogs’ minds sharp, too. Physical, mental, and social stimulation are three ingredients for a happy, healthy canine. Not sure where to start? Our vet-curated dog subscription boxes are tailored for your dog’s age, breed, and need to include products and advice that meet you where you’re at, whether you have a new puppy bursting with energy or a golden girl in her golden years.
Dogs are also beneficial for our human babies: children have been found to cope better with illness and medical procedures when they have a furry companion to keep them grounded and calm.
Dogs can help keep our minds sharp as we age. The older we get, the more susceptible we become to cognitive and other dysfunction. Fortunately, having a dog to socialize with—informally, or through a more formal route like animal-assisted therapy—can improve mental exam scores through increased social behaviours, reduced agitation, and an overall boost in quality of life.
Dogs give us meaning and purpose. Particularly if you’re struggling with a mental health condition like major depressive disorder (MAD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the companionship and feeling of emotional support that comes with having a dog can be a huge help. Sometimes, what we need most is a loving, tail-wagging distraction to lessen emotional pain.
Reason #3 why you should get a dog: Social benefits
Much like us, some dogs tend to be more introverted and others more extroverted. No matter how busy your dog’s social calendar, there are social benefits of having a dog at home that extend to you, too.
Dogs make us look more attractive to each other. Looking for a mate? Post a photo of you and your dog! These photos are typically rated as seeming more relaxed and happy to viewers, which might increase your chances of a match (romantically or not). Having a dog is also associated with an increased exchange of phone numbers, making them the most excellent wingmen and women.
Dogs make us more social. If you find yourself uncomfortable in new social situations, your dog’s got your back. Having a dog not only gets us out of the house more often, it also provides an easy and engaging entrypoint for striking up a conversation. There is research to support that about 40% of dog parents have an easier time making friends than people without dogs.
When it comes to attachment, the bond you build with your dog often translates into an ability to bond with other humans, too. No one will ever take the place of your pet, though!
Dogs teach us life skills. Dogs can teach us responsibility, compassion, empathy, patience, and even negotiation. They also help us learn social skills, build social relationships, and more effectively navigate social rejection.
For our little ones, dogs do a great job of helping children regulate their emotions. Children with one or more dogs in the family tend to have fewer problems with peers and more positive, prosocial behaviours than those from dog-free homes.
Should you get a dog? Things to keep in mind.
EXPERT TIP: A quick word about gifting: if you’re considering gifting a dog (puppy, adult, or senior) to someone in your life, make sure they’re a) interested and b) prepared for the responsibility. I’m sure we speak for animal shelters everywhere when we say it’s a special kind of heartbreak to see a dog surrendered or returned because a family couldn’t honour the commitment.
Everything we’ve shared above sounds pretty great, right? Right. But it’s equally important for us to promote responsible pet parenting, and part of that is managing expectations on what having a dog in the house looks like… for better or for worse.
Here are 7 things to consider before you open your home to a furry new family member:
1. Dog parenting is a long-term commitment. Some breeds may live into their late teens, and most older dogs require medical care (a financial commitment all its own).
2. Speaking of money… dogs aren’t cheap. If you choose to purchase a dog, that’s one fixed cost, but also consider the price tag associated with preventative care, food, accessories, emergency vet visits, and so on. The bills can add up, especially if you aren’t ready for them!
3. Dogs take time. As relaxed as our pooches may be, there is a significant time commitment associated with having a dog. Between potty breaks, feeding, playtime, cuddle time, and play time, it’s important to make sure you have the time for a dog.
EXPERT TIP: A Waggle Mail subscription is a great way to proactively care for your dog’s health and happiness. Our veterinarians curate each box with products and information specific to your dog.
4. Dogs need space. Depending on the breed, it may not be a lot of space, but making sure you’re living in a dog-friendly environment ensures you two will be together for the long haul. Especially if you’re renting, check to see if your building or landlord has any weight or breed restrictions, and whether they allow dogs in the first place.
5. Logistical challenges. If you can’t come home, who takes care of the dog? If you go on vacation, does the dog come with you? If not, does the dog go to a boarding kennel or do you get someone to house sit? All of these are questions to think about ahead of time so you and your dog don’t find yourselves in the middle of a logistical nightmare.
6. Dog parenting requires patience and perseverance. We’ll be honest: sometimes having a dog can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Whether you’re training a teething puppy or dealing with a behavioural issue, patience and perseverance are key.
7. Dogs are like sponges. Dogs are experts at picking up on our emotions and responding in kind. Depending on the situation, a dog might step up and give extra TLC and support, or they may act out.
EXPERT TIP: Having a tough time gauging how your dog is feeling? Look no further than their tail. The wag speed, wag direction, and position of your dog’s tail help to tell the story of their mood (which may actually be a reflection of where you’re at, too).
If you’re not sure you’re ready for the commitment of pet parenthood, that’s okay! There are several ways to reap the benefits of having a dog without actually having a dog:
- Offer to walk or play with a dog in your life (family, friend, neighbour, or coworker). If someone in your life has recently had a baby, they may be feeling guilty about not giving their dog the attention they deserve, so the offer becomes especially meaningful… not to mention beneficial for everyone involved.
- Reach out to local rescues and shelters. Most major centres will have plenty of opportunities to lend a helping hand. Walks, play, and social interactions for dogs in a shelter or similar environment is crucial for their mental health.
- Consider fostering a dog. Sometimes, dogs need a safe place to land before they’re ready to meet their forever family. Fosters are generally in high demand, so you’re not only benefitting the organization… you and your foster pup will also see the benefits of this short-but-sweet time together.
Even if you’re still on the fence about whether you should get a dog, we think we can all agree on one thing: dogs are awesome. The physical, mental, and social benefits are just the cherry on top!
Like what you read? Share it with a friend! Dog people are our kind of people. While you’re at it, subscribe to Waggle (e)Mail for more tips, tricks, and treats.
Dr. C. Beck
Registered Veterinarian, Founder & CEO