Why owning a dog is good for your health

Amy McNeel

When a dog is being walked around campus, it’s usually swarmed by giddy college students who desperately miss their furry companions. Of course, owning a dog has its pros and cons, and while having a “cuddle buddy” is high on the pros list, dogs have much more to offer. In fact, studies have shown that dogs increase the mental and physical health of their owners. 

College is a very stressful time in a person’s life, but that stress can be reduced with the help of a dog. According to AnimalSmart.org, petting and playing with a dog “can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.” When people are stressed, they tend to be less productive and blood pressure tends to rise. Dogs can reduce this stress and help a student get back on track. This ability to de-stress also helps with depression, anxiety and easing loneliness. 

Furthermore, dogs can benefit physical health. Through walks and playtime, people are more likely to be physically active. According to an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “A large Californian study found that people who owned a dog walked more as a leisure-time activity and walked almost 20 minutes more each week than people who did not own a pet.” 

This of course goes hand in hand with cardiovascular health. According to the American Heart Association, dog owners in particular are more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity, and because of this increased physical activity, dogs can help reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease. 

This aspect of physical health is so important, especially for people attending college. Sometimes at school it can be hard to find time to work out, and it can be so easy to stay in bed and watch Netflix. Owning a dog will increase the desire to get out and move around, and is beneficial both for the dog and its human. 

Unfortunately, owning a dog while at college can be extremely challenging. Being a pet owner takes time and money. While there are so many benefits to owning a dog, there are also a lot of different components that need to be thought out before someone officially becomes a pet owner. While a dog can help the owner, the owner also needs to be able to take care of the dog, which, sadly, can be difficult to do at school.

The good news is that even if you don’t have the means to adopt a dog, there are other options where you can still interact with furry companions. One of these options is volunteering at a local shelter, such as the Humane Society of West Michigan. By volunteering at shelters, you get to socialize with and walk dogs, which overall benefits both the dog and the volunteer. 

While owning a dog has both its pros and cons, being a puppy parent can be extremely rewarding. Dogs are so good for both mental and physical health, and by adopting or volunteering, you can make the difference in the life of an animal while that animal makes a difference in yours.