Special Ways Dogs Can Make Lives Better

Everyone has heard the saying, "Dogs are a man's best friend," but not everyone is aware of the palpable benefits of ownership. Your physical health, mental health and emotional well being all improve when you're in the company of a lovable Saint Bernard, Chihuahua, Labrador or other dog. Studies have shown the significant impact these animals have on our overall quality of life.

With that in mind, check out these five ways that dogs make our lives better.

1. More Frequent Exercise

When you walk, run and play with your dog, they're exercising you just as much as you're exercising them. Whether you're throwing a ball, wrestling in the backyard or chasing your dog around the house, you're staying active and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. Older adults also benefit from through the simple act of petting their dogs, an action that relieves arthritic joint pain and stiffness.

Concerning the benefits of exercise, it sharpens the mind and increases physical stamina, and it's a great way for you and your pet to enjoy some bonding time. Make sure your dog doesn't overheat when running around outside, however, and keep plenty of water on hand for both of you.

2. Improved Health

Scientists have conducted studies on the various benefits that dogs provide, looking at heart health and allergy reduction. Dog owners will often have lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who don't own dogs. These factors go hand-in-hand with the daily physical exercise owners engage in with their dogs.

Children who grow up around dogs have lower rates of asthma and pet allergies as they age. The early exposure to a dog's germs strengthens a child's immune system against allergy development. The body's ability to differentiate between good and bad bacteria weakens when there's little exposure to diverse microorganisms. Dogs remedy this lack of exposure by bringing bacteria from outdoor environments into your living space.

Dogs can also sniff out cancer cells, which give off odor signatures that emanate from the skin or bodily fluids. Human senses can't detect these odors — but dogs have the ability to smell substances in concentrations as low as parts per trillion. This ability doesn't require any specialized training, as a dog's sense of smell is incredibly keen, and their ability to pick up on cancerous odors is acute. Dogs detect cancers such as prostate, colon and breast cancer, and the same holds true for viruses and bacteria.

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3. Companionship

The lively, energetic personality of the average dog is often helpful in addressing loneliness and depression. As a dog owner, you're likely familiar with their excitement when you return home, whether you were gone at work all day or drove by the convenience store. The sound of the key in the lock is often enough to get them jumping at the door, a joy you can't help but share.

Dogs also increase socialization by bringing you into contact with other humans. When you go to the dog park or take your pup around the neighborhood, you're sure to meet other people walking their dogs. They'll often come up to you to meet your dog — a perfect ice breaker — and a conversation starts from there.

4. Service and Therapy

Service dogs receive rigorous training to prepare them for their important roles. These pups are valuable to people with disabilities who want an independent lifestyle, assisting them in a variety of ways. Service dogs can dial emergency numbers, fetch medication for owners suffering a medical crises and also pick up on hypoglycemic episodes or emotional distress, acquiring another human's help if necessary.

Any dog can be a therapy dog as long as it's well-behaved, friendly and content with frequent human contact. Some people train their therapy dogs on their own, while others take them to training schools for a more formal experience. People volunteer their dogs at libraries, hospitals, assisted living facilities and schools. Therapy dogs also provide excellent company for older adults living alone who desire companionship. Dogs can supply relief and mental stimulation for adults who have dementia and similar disorders.

5. Protection

Dogs are extremely loyal creatures, happy to help whenever you require medical assistance, a pick-me-up from a draining day or protection from danger. Older adults and women living alone are at increased risk of burglary, but they can keep themselves safe with a guard dog. The loud barks of a guard dog can drive away burglars and alert you to call the police. If someone breaks into your home, the dog can serve as an important safety measure.

Certain breeds make better guard dogs than others, including German Shepherds, boxers and rottweilers. Dogs of this strength and size require patient training to be effective at their guard duty, but it's often well worth the effort.

Dogs Affect Our Lives in Big and Small Ways

Whether it's a Great Dane or a corgi, dogs are beneficial to your life regardless of the position they occupy. They enrich our lives in many ways, longer than any list could do justice. The next time you see one, give it a pat on the head and remember just how much of an impact a dog can make.

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