The benefits of owning a dog range from lifting moods to lowering disease risks. The Harvard Medical School report, “Get Healthy, Get a Dog,” shares evidence that dogs aren’t just loyal companions, they’re also good for your health.
Compared to non-owners, dog owners have lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of heart disease. Mental health benefits of owning a dog include being less likely to feel lonely, anxious, or depressed.
Other experts, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC), also cite the science-based health benefits of having a dog. Dogs help keep you active, healthy, social and engaged in life. They balance contagious enthusiasm with deep empathy and a desire to love and serve others unconditionally.
Dogs nudge you – sometimes literally – to get up and move. They want to tag along to pet-friendly places. They urge you to go outside to walk, run, or play. They motivate you to meet and greet others you might otherwise overlook. Pet-friendly “dog moms” and other fans know that dogs earn their frequent “Good dog!” praise.
Spiritual health benefits of owning a dog
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22, NET
Dogs are far from perfect! They sometimes steal food, chew on rugs, bark at visitors, and covet their neighbor’s chew toys. Like humans, they often fall short of their master’s expectations.
Still, most keep trying, and routinely exhibit qualities that inspire us. Although they’re not human, these faithful four-legged friends show us that some of life’s best virtues stem from love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Dogs are among God’s most caring, joyful, and gentle creatures. They can help you find the self-discipline to work hard, stay active, love others, and forgive often. They can teach you how to forget your worries for a while. Dogs model traits that inspire God’s children through changing seasons of life. That’s good for the body, mind, heart, and soul.
Dogs are far from perfect! They sometimes steal food, chew on rugs, bark at visitors, and covet their neighbor’s chew toys. Like humans, they often fall short of their master’s expectations (Romans 3:23).
Physical health benefits of owning a dog
The physical health benefits of having a dog are confirmed by the AHA and other health leaders. The AHA reports that in addition to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart-harming stress, dogs can improve recovery after illness. The AKC cites studies showing a clear correlation between dog ownership and longer life expectancy.
Dogs help with weight-management, too. One NIH study of public housing residents found that those who walked “loaner” dogs lost an average of 14.4 pounds over a year. They saw it as their responsibility to the dog, not just an exercise chore, and felt a sense of being needed.
According to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), people are happier and healthier when animals are around. Their research review found that interacting with animals results in:
- Healthier breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Improved recovery after a heart attack or stroke
- Increase in hormones associated with well-being, including cortisol, oxytocin, b-endorphin, dopamine and others
- Increased time spent exercising by up to 30 more minutes a day
- Reduced muscle tension
Dogs bond with humans and become like family. Some dogs have heroically rescued children and adults from intruders, traffic, fires, drowning, and other dangers. Other dogs have alerted owners and others to medical conditions ranging from pending seizures to undiagnosed tumors.
Do dogs think humans are dogs?
Curious pet owners have wondered, “How does my dog see me?” Research is limited. One French study, reported in Scientific American, tested canine participants with names like Cusco, Bahia, Babel, and Sweet. The dogs looked at a series of digital pictures of dogs and non-dogs. The images included pictures of human faces as well as facial photos of domestic and wild animals.
Researchers concluded that dogs can identify and differentiate other dogs, breeds, and humans by sight alone. They seemed to understand who falls into the category of dog and who does not.
Other scientists note that dogs use both sight and smell to size up their surroundings. With over 100 million sensory receptors in the nose, dogs can easily distinguish canine scents from human scents. As domesticated wolf descendants, dogs still love to be part of a pack but are unlikely to think you’re one of their own species.
Responsibilities and rewards of owning a dog
While dogs offer healthy rewards, pet ownership is a big responsibility. Before bringing a pup home, ask trusted shelters, veterinarians, and pet experts about what to expect.
Dogs require attention, care, and commitment. They’re also a sizable part of any household budget, especially if you have children or are budgeting for a baby.
Affordable alternatives may include pet-sitting, dog-walking, training dogs or therapy pets, or caring for the pets of neighbors, family, and friends while they’re away. Doing a little homework in advance helps to ensure mutually beneficial relationships with pets for years to come.
Grow the Fruit of the Spirit by signing up for our FruitFULL e-book!
Created just for you, this book is full of resources to help you and your family cultivate closeness with God.
Just like you make sure to eat a balanced diet, make sure you learn to grow the “good fruit” of the Holy Spirit.