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Pet owners already know what kind of fulfillment a dog, cat, bird, or any other type of pet can bring to your life. Pets become fast family members for many people. They’re entertaining, loving, fun, caring, and loyal.
While most people know that pets can help you to live happier, healthier lives, they can also hold their owners accountable. In particular, dogs can help you to stay on track with everything from personal responsibilities to taking care of your own health.
So, what are some of the ways in which your pet holds you accountable and keeps you healthy? You may not even realize it, but there’s a good chance your four-legged friend is keeping you on track in more ways than one.
They Offer a Purpose
When you have a dog in your life, you’re automatically given a new set of responsibilities. Even the very basics of taking care of a dog include things like:
- Making sure they get enough exercise
- Feeding them on a schedule
- Getting them proper medical care
Dogs have even been used in prisons throughout the country, in programs designed to give inmates a sense of purpose and to task them with responsibilities that they can handle. Programs like Pawsitive Change bring rescue dogs to prisons, and the inmates work on training and taking care of them. As a result, more of the dogs end up getting adopted, and inmates who participate in such programs often have a lower rate of returning to prison once released. It also opens important doors for them to learn and grow and to place something positive on their resume so they may not have to face as many challenges or consequences when they leave prison.
When you choose to adopt or purchase a dog, you’re taking on years of responsibility, which is exactly what some people need to stay motivated and to be held accountable in their daily actions. In return, you’ll receive unconditional love, so it’s a pretty nice trade-off!
They Encourage Activity
Dogs can do everything from waking you up in the morning to encouraging you to get outside by bringing you their leash. They can hold you accountable for keeping your body healthy in a variety of ways, even if it means just encouraging you to get outside each day while you watch them run around in the backyard with toys and games.
Because your dog will need to be exercised several times a day, they can hold you accountable to get some movement in, yourself. Even 30 minutes of activity each day can benefit your heart health, strengthen your muscles, boost your immune system, and make you feel more energized. A regular exercise routine that involves your pooch can also help with feelings of anxiety and may make it easier to manage your physical symptoms:
- A rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
Whether you have fitness goals or you just want to keep your body healthy, a dog can be the ultimate motivator, because in putting their health needs above your own and exercising them every day, you’re getting the activity you need on a regular basis, too.
They Monitor Your Mental Health
If you have a pet, have you ever noticed that they seem to act differently around you when you are stressed or anxious? You’re not imagining things. Even if you try to ignore your own stress levels or push through them, it’s impossible for your pet to not feel what you’re going through.
Studies have shown that dogs, especially, are very in-tune with the emotions of people. When you’re stressed, sad, anxious, or depressed, it can take a toll on your canine companion. In fact, not only do dogs sense human emotions but they can take them on as your own. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a good chance your dog will be, too. That can take a toll on their physical and mental health. But, it can also make you more aware of your own.
If you notice your furry friend starting to exhibit signs of mental distress, they could be mirroring what you’re feeling. You can use your observations as a sign that it’s time to take control of your own mental health and reduce your stress levels. Thankfully, your pet can help you with that, too! Playing with, or even petting an animal has been shown to reduce stress levels in humans. So, if you’re feeling anxious for any reason, spend time with your four-legged friend and try to relax. Take a walk, lay together, or get outside and plant a garden while your pet enjoys the shade.
It’s amazing how pets can help their owners in so many ways, and how they are doing great things with different groups and organizations, just by following their natural instincts. If you have a pet in your home, try to take note of how they hold you accountable and keep you healthy — you might be thanking them more than ever!
About the Author:
Indiana Lee is a writer and pet lover from the pacific northwest who has a particular interest in covering the arts, social justice, and health. You can follow her work on Contently, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.