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Doctors: 6 Ways Adopting a Shelter Dog Improves Health

What’s better than an over-the-top enthusiastic greeting after a long day at work…or a quick trip to the store… or three minutes at the mailbox… or 30 seconds in the garage?

Nothing. That’s what. Dog love rules. And turns out, it’s seriously good for your mental and physical well-being—especially when you adopt from a shelter.

Check it out these 8 health benefits of adopting a dog:

  1. Melt away stress. Studies show that owning a dog lowers our stress response in the body. Just a few minutes in the presence of your pet can flood you with oxytocin and begin to reduce cortisol The effects? You know the drill…a slower heartrate, easy breathing, decreased blood pressure, and an overall feeling of calm and comfort.

And, when you adopt a dog from a shelter, you get the added peace of mind knowing you’ve saved a life and made a real difference.

  1. Hone your laser focus. You probably think that having a dog would add to the chaos of home life. But again, studies show that people with dogs are better able to perform tasks correctly than their pet-free counterparts. In fact, they actually improve our concentration. And improved concentration is key for optimum mental health. Focus is needed to learn new things and achieve goals, but it’s also critical for a strong defense against worry, anxiety, panic and more.

 That said, chewed wingtips and torn up couch cushions can get in the way of stellar concentration. It can be tough to fit an energetic puppy into a busy lifestyle. Adopting an older dog from a shelter can be an awesome option—letting you skip out on those puppy teeth altogether and enabling concentration earlier on in the relationship.

  1. Keep that ticker ticking. Studies show that sharing your life with a dog is linked to lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels—which, as you know, means better cardiovascular health and a decreased risk for heart attacks. It also means a potentially longer life. And get this… if you do have a heart attack, having a dog by your side will help the recovery process and speed your recovery time.
  2. Make meaningful connections. A solitary lifestyle—even for us introverts—isn’t always healthy. And as we age, it becomes harder to get out and meet people. Not so for dog owners. Dogs force us to get out and about. The dog park, the beach, the nature trail— Their need for socialization with other dogs can force us out of our own ruts, and put us in scenarios to meet like-minded people and form meaningful relationships. No wonder dog people suffer from less depression!

There’s also a really strong community vibe among dog rescuers. It’s not just about loving dogs. It’s about sharing in a socially responsible action—a cause. And that can be really meaningful in forming friendships.

  1. Get in great shape. You know how important exercise is to health—we should all be getting about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. Unfortunately in our rat-race society, a lot of us aren’t even coming close. (I’m jogging in place at my desk as I type this to just get my steps up). Dog owners, on the other hand, are way more likely to hit that goal. I don’t have to tell you all the health benefits of regular exercise. But I will remind you that it impacts your mobility, your stress levels, your immunity …and your weight. Want to drop a few? Get a pooch. In one study, people who walked dogs 5 times a week lost an average of more than 14 pounds over the course of a year.

You could always volunteer to walk dogs at your local shelter, if a owning a dog isn’t in your cards right now—all the benefits of an active dog-owner lifestyle without any of the responsibility.

  1. Prevent allergies and boost immunity. I know, I know. Dog dander is supposed to be an allergen. Fortunately for furry shelter dogs everywhere, research now shows that having a dog in the home actually lower’s the chance of a child becoming allergic to dogs by up to 33%. The best part? They may even help to develop stronger immune systems. So do it for your kids…do it for your grandkids…either way, do it for the children!

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