Dogs Provide Emotional and Physical Health Benefits, in Addition to Being Adorable

By Rebecca Cohen
For Unwind magazine

It’s no secret that people love dogs. It is nearly impossible to pass a dog on the street and not pet it, or even merely smile in its direction. Due to this human infatuation with the species, the social media realm has taken in upon itself to create a new holiday: National Puppy Day. The holiday was observed on March 23 and participants celebrated by posting pictures of their pups on their social media profiles with the hashtag, #nationalpuppyday.

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Photo by Michael Placanica

But, besides the cute face, the fluffy tails, and the endless kisses, research proves that there are more benefits of keeping a dog as a pet than just having a cute pal to hang out with. According to the National Center for Health Research, there are a multitude of physical, emotional and developmental benefits to having a dog.

A 2002 study proved that having a dog nearby can lower blood pressure, even more so than a common blood pressure medication, according to the National Center for Health Research. People who had dogs had a lower resting heart rate and therefore a lower risk for potential heart disease.

Dogs are also known to ease anxiety. According to the same study, dog owners were given a math test. Those who took the test alongside a dog were less likely to have a spike in heart rate, indicating stress, and perform better on the test.

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Photo by Michael Placanica

The same was found in a different study, focusing on children from ages 3 to 6 who were put in an uncomfortable situation. Those who were in the same room as a dog proved to have lower heart rates, lower blood pressure and lower stress levels, according to the National Center for Health Research.

Because of this research, it has also been concluded that dogs are a good source of social support because having a dog, in general, reduces levels of stress.

“I think I’m definitely healthier mentally and emotionally and I’m more outgoing socially [because of my dogs],” said Peyton Nir, a sophomore communications and criminal justice major. Nir grew up with dogs and now has four dogs of all different breeds. She said that she loved growing up with pets and thinks it really impacted her childhood in a positive way. She also stated that she always had a “friend” to hang out with and play with and that made her happy growing up.

Besides personal health, dogs can provide great help to those who struggle with chronic disease or disability. Service dogs spend their puppy years with a trainer, someone who volunteers to adopt a dog and help train them for their future in service, and attend many classes to prepare them for the specific role they will grow into.

Abby Wallisch, junior journalism major, adopted Geer, a Yellow English Lab at the beginning of the year. Geer is in training to be a service dog. Wallisch grew up with dogs and she wanted to have one at school, so this was a perfect compromise.

Her motivation behind taking on this task was the fact that her niece is diabetic, and she is helping to train Geer to be a service dog for someone with diabetes. Not only will Geer help someone else in the future with their disorder, but he has impacted Wallisch in a number of ways, too.

“It’s made me more patient and made me more responsible. It’s taught me a lot about some of the difficulties people with disabilities face and it’s shown me how much happiness dogs can provide,” Wallisch said.

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Photo by Michael Placanica

Service dogs are trained to help people with a number of disabilities including mobility issues, blindness, hearing loss, diabetes, MS, cancer, autism, epilepsy, osteoporosis, scoliosis, and PTSD, according to the United States Dog Registry.

Despite all of these benefits, some still stay away from dogs as pets.

“My parents did not want to have to take care of it and they’re too expensive,” said Melanie Maltz, sophomore public relations major. Maltz never had dogs, because her parents did not want the burden of caring for it. Dogs prove to be a lot of work since they require intense upkeep.

It is clear that having a dog as a pet can provide multiple health benefits to its owners. So next #nationalpuppyday, reflect on all you are thankful for when it comes to your pup, even though the perfect Instagram post of our dogs is important, too.

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