Dogs are Good for Your Health

ImageThat’s a photo of Rosebud, my American Hairless Terrier.  She’s smart as a whip and apparently understands English.  When I say the word “walk”, she bolts for the door and runs in circles, tail wagging.  She turns an even brighter shade of pink, because when she’s excited, her whole body blushes. I wish we all became that pumped about exercise! She doesn’t even fuss about wearing her coat — it’s a necessity when you’re naked.

Before Rosebud, I was a total gym rat.  I did almost all my training on a treadmill — and I dreaded the weather.  My dog is wound pretty tight and needs a walk once or twice a day, so even if I’ve completed my mandatory run, she still needs her outing.  Rosebud taught me how to love the great outdoors.  When she stops to sniff a tree, I pause and notice the beauty around me, and even relax a little.  Despite her tiny 11-pound stature, she is a fast-walker, so I have to hoof it to keep up the pace.  Which leads me to my point:  Dogs are Good for Your Health.

A 2011 study by the Journal of Physical Activity & Health discovered that dog owners were 34% more likely to exercise at least 150 minutes a week, the recommended minimum.  That’s no surprise.  On an average, I take Rosebud for two, 20-minute walks a day for a total of 40 minutes.  With a dog, it’s easy for anyone to meet the recommended minimum exercise requirement.  Walking is a great activity for people with osteoperosis because it’s weight-bearing.  And since you’re outside, you’ll soak in a little vitamin D from the sun — an added bonus.

Dogs are great for encouraging social interaction — which in turn leads to a longer life.  Rosebud has never met a stranger.  Everyone wants to meet — and touch — the pink hairless dog.  Thanks to her, I know most of my neighbors.  Of course, they probably don’t know MY name — I’m just Rosebud’s mom.

It’s no surprise to me that pets have a calming effect.  They lower the stress hormone cortisol, which is the one that can make you fat.  And they increase the good chemical, seratonin, which gives you a feeling of well-being. Other studies have revealed that pet owners have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and are less likely to suffer from heart disease.  And if you’re worried about allergies, you can always get an American Hairless Terrier.  I’m allergic to cats and mildly allergic to dogs.  But because Rosebud has no hair and minimal pet dander, I’m not allergic to her.

As a little aside, there’s one more benefit of a hairless dog.  They generate intense body heat, and can be trained to be service dogs for people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain that respond to heat (check out www.pawsforcomfort.com).  People place their aching limbs against the dog’s body and find relief.  Some dogs have been trained to be wrapped around the neck of a person with chronic pain.  Don’t worry — I don’t plan to wear Rosebud like a scarf any time soon!

If you’ve been considering getting a dog, maybe this article will push you over the edge.  Hopefully I’ve at least inspired you to take your dog for regular walks.  You’ll both be happier and healthier for it.

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