We spend a lot of time talking about what a huge responsibility it is to adopt a pet.
And yes, it’s incredibly important to ensure you have a stable home, enough free time, and the financial means required to properly take care of an animal — before you adopt one. But what’s also important is thinking about all the reasons people should adopt a dog — because there are tons.
So if you have the capability to provide a safe, stable, and loving home for a dog, yet you’re still on the fence for some reason, allow us to convince you why this is one of the best decisions you’ll make in your entire life. Millions of dog owners who love their pets can’t possibly be wrong.
These are the top 9 reasons why you should adopt a dog.
Dogs Make People Less Lonely
Let’s start with an obvious one. Having a dog will make you less lonely.
It’s pretty easy to see why — a dog is a companion why wants to be with you at all times. You’re his or her pack, after all. There’s a reason dogs have been called “man’s best friend” for about as long as time — once you have a dog, they become like a member of your family. They provide unconditional love and easy companionship. And especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, dogs can provide the physical touch that many of us are missing from our lives as we isolate from family and friends.
Relationships with pets can be easier than relationships with people, since pets aren’t quite as emotionally complex as our human family members. That means your relationship with your dog provides the companionship you need to be happy and healthy, but without any of the baggage that can come with human relationships. It’s like having a family member, but with a near-guarantee of a perfect, conflict-free relationship. There’s no beating that.
Dogs Can Help Prevent Stress and Anxiety
If you’ve spent any time with dogs, you’ve probably already noticed their calming effects in passing.
But the fact that dogs can help prevent and relieve stress and anxiety is also proven by science.
In one study, 48 participants were given a stress test that required them to either do public speaking or complete math problems while an unfriendly observer watched. The participants were randomly assigned a friend, a strange dog, or no one to accompany them before and during the stress test. They were asked questions about their anxiety levels, and their heart rates and levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured before, just after, and 30 minutes after finishing the test.
It’s not surprising that the participants with no one to accompany them had the highest levels of stress and anxiety. But the participants who had dogs were less stressed and anxious than the ones who had their human friends with them. Even though it wasn’t even their own dog, a canine presence helped them feel better in a stressful situation.
Dogs Promote Better Exercise
If you’ve read the first two reasons for adopting a dog and you’re still skeptical, that’s OK! After all, most pets would help their people be less lonely, and promote lower levels of stress and anxiety. Why adopt a dog, specifically?
Well, there’s at least one benefit you get with dogs that you don’t get with all pets: Better exercise.
Unlike cats and other smaller pets, dogs typically need a fair amount of exercise, whether that’s going for regular walks around the neighborhood, going hiking, playing in the yard, or taking trips to the dog park. And dogs can’t just get all that exercise on their own — their humans have to take them. That means that when your dog is exercising, so are you.
Studies have shown that dog owners tend to be more active overall than people who don’t own dogs, averaging 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity per day while taking care of their dogs. If you’re looking for a reason to get off the couch, a dog might be just what you need.
Dog Owners Have Fewer Allergies
This is where things start to get really scientific.
Yes, dog dander is a common allergen, and by exposing yourself to it regularly by having a dog of your own, you decrease your risk of developing pet allergies during your life.
But dogs can actually prevent people from having all kinds of other allergies, too.
A 2017 study showed that women who lived with dogs while pregnant experienced a bacterial exchange with them, and then passed on two key bacteria — Ruminococcus and Oscillospira — to their unborn children. This exchange was shown to happen even if the dog was no longer in the home after the baby was born.
Those two bacteria help reduce the risk of many common allergies. They also reduce the risk of other health problems such as asthma, obesity, and eczema.
The study didn’t show whether those health benefits could help older people, especially since they may have already developed allergies and other health conditions. But if you’re planning on having kids, having a dog could help them be healthier as they grow.
People With Dogs Have More Active Social Lives
Whether it’s meeting up with friends or neighbors to walk your dogs together, joining a dog friendly hiking group, or just chatting with other dog owners while your pups play together at the dog park, there are so many opportunities for dog owners to have active, fulfilling social lives.
This is also another benefit that’s backed up by science — in more than one way.
For example, one survey found that 82 percent of people felt more confident approaching someone they found attractive if they had a dog with them. Didn’t think your pup could be your wingman and get you a date? Think again.
Another study found that on dating apps, people tend to perceive potential matches who have pictures with their dogs as being more happy and approachable.
But dogs aren’t only good for dating. A 2013 study that followed dog owners over age 50 showed that people who walk their dogs regularly have better relationships with their neighbors and feel a stronger sense of community.
Dogs Teach Children Important Skills
Here’s another good reason to adopt a dog if you have kids: Pet ownership is full of valuable lessons for children.
Pet ownership teaches kids important skills like patience and responsibility, especially if you give your kids age-appropriate chores to help take care of the pet, like feeding or walking it.
Dogs can also help kids play, and promote imagination, since they’re a playmate that doesn’t talk. Dogs provide young children with a sense of security, and can help prevent things like separation anxiety from their parents and other family members.
But that’s not all. Studies also show that people who owned dogs when they were young tend to be more empathetic as adults. This is likely because owning a pet requires a young child to consider the fact that they’re in charge of the health and happiness of a creature that relies on them. Adopting a dog from a shelter can particularly drive home the message that owning a dog can sometimes mean saving a life.
People With Dogs Tend to Have Better Heart Health
Is it just because of all the walking and other activity? Scientists have noticed a correlation between owning a dog and having a healthy heart, but the fact that dogs encourage higher levels of cardiovascular activity is likely only one part of the puzzle.
One study found that people who owned dogs experienced fewer minor health problems, and rated themselves as healthier than people who didn’t own any pets. Another study found that people who own dogs tend to live longer, and make fewer doctor visits than people without pets — even when you take into account gender, age, marital status, income, and other factors that affect people’s overall health.
And a comprehensive review of a series of scientific studies found that dog owners have significantly lower heart rates, arterial pressure, and systolic blood pressure, which indicates that they just have healthier hearts overall than people who don’t have any pets.
Dogs Can Even Detect Cancer
OK, so we can’t promise that this benefit will happen for every dog owner. But while we’re on the subject of how dogs can help make people healthier, it’s important to note that dogs seem to have a sense for certain illnesses, including cancer.
In a 2006 study, five dogs were trained to be able to detect cancer just by smelling patients’ breath. After their training, all five dogs were able to detect breast cancer with 88 percent accuracy, and lung cancer with 90 percent accuracy, regardless of the stage of the cancer. More recent scientific studies have shown that dogs can identify blood samples from cancer patients with a stunning 97 percent accuracy.
Adopting a Dog Has Benefits for the Dog, Too
And then there are the benefits to the actual dog. Sure, we focus a lot on why you should adopt a dog to improve your life, but when you open your home to a dog, you’re providing a happy, safe, and loving home to another creature. That can’t be understated — it’s an amazing thing to do.
If you’ve been on the fence about bringing a dog into your life, we hope these reasons helped sway you. Dogs are a constant source of love, joy, and companionship, and everyone deserves to experience that.