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How Owning a Dog Can Improve Your Health

Chantelle has been an animal lover her entire life and is now in a committed relationship with a 4-year-old Toy Poodle, Izze.

Dogs have been man's best friend for as long as recorded history. Some breeds date back almost 10,000 years. Besides providing the psychological benefits of undying love, their presence provides measurable health benefits as well. Owning a dog can help with...

  • cardiovascular health,
  • symptoms of Alzheimer's,
  • depressive mood disorders,
  • social issues,
  • allergies, and
  • blood pressure.

Dogs Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

You don't need to be a doctor to know how important it is to get up and moving. Why hire a trainer when all you need is an energetic, enthusiastic exercise partner? Studies have shown that heart attack patients who have a pet live longer than those who don't. Researchers have shown that increased exercise lowers cholesterol levels. So put on your running shoes and let one of these breeds become your next best friend.

The Boxer is a fun-loving, playful breed that is gentle with kids yet still protective. A strong dog, they require a lot of exercise to keep them from chewing, digging, and other destructive behaviors. A friend of mine has two Boxers, and she takes them for a 6-mile run every day. That is their minimum amount of daily exercise and her maximum. So if you're not that athletic, they may not be right for you.

Dalmatians, made popular by the movie "101 Dalmatians", are another good breed for runners and hikers. Originally they were bred as guard dogs, but because of their strength, stamina, and compatibility with horses, they were also used as coach dogs, clearing a path for the horses that would pull the fire engine. Somewhat aloof to strangers, they are a loving family pet and are a good choice for those that are quite active.

Weimaraners were originally bred to hunt wild boar, bear, and deer. Imagine the strength and stamina it must take to do that, and you'll have a good idea how much running you'll need to do to keep this breed happy. They love being part of a "pack," making them a great family pet. My sister had two Weimaraners, who thought they were lap dogs, and it was lovely.

Dogs Help to Lessen the Symptoms of Alzheimer's

Numerous studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients actually have fewer anxious outbursts when they have a dog. Simply holding and petting the dog can reduce their stress and provide exercise for those who are still able to walk.

Five years ago, we purchased a Yorkiepoo puppy for my father, who has dementia. Sometimes he forgets who I am, but he still remembers Charlie. He loves petting Charlie, sneaking him treats under the table and taking him for short romps outside. This pup really brightens his mood on what would otherwise be a very gloomy day.

The French Bulldog, sometimes lovingly referred to the "clown dog" because of their entertaining nature, love to keep close contact. They don't need much exercise and are not big barkers. A patient and affectionate breed, they make great companions.

If you're not familiar with Boo, the Pomeranian of Internet fame, Google him, and you will know why the Pomeranian is such a loved breed. Friendly, lively, and outgoing they dote on their humans and can become quite protective. They are very attuned to their environment, and barking can become an issue for some. Despite this, they are still considered a great companion pet and one that doesn't require a lot of exercise.

Though my dad's dog is a Yorkiepoo when it comes to temperament, he is all Yorkshire Terrier. He struts around the house like a little Napoleon with all the importance that position comes with. Yorkies are generally active, curious little dogs. Though alert to their surroundings during the day, they will snuggle with you when night rolls around. Though they don't need a lot of exercise, they do need some mental and physical stimulation throughout the day. They also have a tendency to bark a lot. Despite all this, they are still a loving companion.

They Can Lift a Depressive Mood

In a recent issue of the Johns Hopkins Depression And Anxiety Bulletin, Dr. Karen Swartz cites a recent study where nursing home residents received two half-hour weekly visits from a dog. Half the group had the dog to themselves. The other half shared the attention of the dog with other residents. Both groups reported less loneliness, but the group that had one-to-one time with a dog reported significantly less loneliness than the other group.

The Havanese is a happy, little breed that is easy to train with an affectionate temperament. Though they are a Toy breed, they are energetic and need daily exercise. Intelligent, they are easy to train and enjoy competing in obedience as well as agility competitions, though this little lap dog would be just as happy to cuddle up right next to you.

Though many Pugs compete in AKC obedience trials, dog shows, and agility trials, their reason for being is to be near you and please you. Though small, they are a sturdy little dog that requires minimal exercise and adapt well to apartment living.

There is nothing a Maltese loves more than sitting in your lap even though at times they can be feisty. Though their coat can get quite long, they are a low-shedding breed that still requires a lot of grooming which is why you'll often see them with a "puppy cut." They are a long-lived breed that will happily makes new friends.

They Help Their Owners Overcome Social Isolation and Shyness

Studies have shown that almost 12% of the population will experience social anxiety at some point in their lives. This does not include people who feel socially awkward or shy. Dogs are social magnets and great ice breakers. Personally, I have met people in my neighborhood I've never even seen before, and I've been here for 15 years! These dogs might be the friendly buffer you need to get out and meet more people.

Look at that face. What stranger wouldn't want to meet this dog? The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is affectionate, playful, and eager to please. They are not shy and can adapt to any environment. Though they love to play, they also love to snuggle and make great lap dogs. They don't need a lot of exercise but are just as happy to take long walks. They regard all strangers as friends, so if you're looking for a guard dog, look elsewhere.

There are so many reasons that Labrador Retrievers are a wildly popular breed that it would be hard to name them all. Kind, outgoing and even-tempered, they make for a great family pet. Trusting with strangers, they would not make a good guard dog but are great when meeting new people. My sister had a Lab and no matter what my son did, from pulling her tail to squirting her with the garden hose, she just gave him a calm, patient look that said, "this too shall pass." They are a wonderful breed.

We had a Golden Retriever when I was a kid, and I miss her to this day. Goldens are kind, friendly to everyone and patient with kids. Naturally intelligent with a gentle disposition, they are a breed that is eager to please. They have a high degree of sociability towards people and can easily make "friends'. Their coat, however, needs regular brushing to keep from matting and they do shed quite a bit.

They Can Ameliorate Allergies

According to researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are a growing number of studies suggesting that kids growing up in a home with a furry pet prior to the age of six months, will actually have less of a chance of developing allergies and asthma. Unfortunately, that advice comes too late for many of us, so if you really want a dog, there are a few breeds you may be able to tolerate.

Both my husband and my son are allergic to dogs but manage well with our Poodle. Poodles are easy to train, energetic, and love just about everyone they meet. Their coats do require monthly grooming which, with a Standard Poodle, can easily reach $100 a month which for those of us with allergies, is worth it. Though experts recommend the Standard for families because of it's easy-going nature around kids, my son with autism and our Toy get along great.

The Coton de Tulear is another breed that is good for allergy sufferers. Though they are usually quiet, they are also playful and can become quite vocal when playing a good game of chase. Outgoing and curious, they have a personality much like a Labrador Retriever. They do equally well in an apartment or on a farm as they are quite adaptable.

The Portuguese Water Dog is the breed the Obamas selected due to their daughter's allergy. They are friendly and intelligent with a fluffy non-shedding coat that begs to be petted. They are quite bright and easily taught but do bond quite tightly with one family member. Naturally, they love water and enjoy retrieving toys tossed in the water. They are a breed that needs a lot of stimulation and are not a good choice for "couch potatoes."

They May Help to Reduce Blood Pressure

We all know that petting a dog feels good but did you know it can lower your blood pressure and levels of stress hormones in your body? In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a dog had lower blood pressure in stressful situations than their counterparts without a dog. Scientists at the University of Texas School Of Public health have also shown that playing with a dog increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your body, leading to a sense of calmness.

Friendly, patient and calm, Bulldogs are much more likely to sleep on your lap than run around the backyard. Unless you go in the backyard, in which case, they will sleep on your lap in the backyard. What could reduce your stress level more than a dog who loves and asks nothing in return?

The Basset Hound, known for its sweet and gentle nature, is always friendly and well-behaved. It is a sweet, gentle, devoted and naturally well-behaved breed. This breed is quite lazy unless it picks up a scent and then it is off and should really only be let off-leash in a fenced-in area.

Known as the "world's biggest lap dog," Great Danes are a very gentle and loving breed. Their need for physical affection from their family is high, and it is more likely than not they will crawl up in your lap. They get along well with other dogs and pets and despite their size, don't require large amounts of exercise.

Though dogs can certainly bring some relief to a wide variety of ailments, they are not a substitute for medical treatment. The breeds mentioned above represent only a tiny fraction of the dogs who are ready and willing to provide the love and companionship you need. Please always remember to have your pet spayed or neutered.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Chantelle Porter


Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 14, 2015:

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on November 14, 2015:

Nice synopsis on some very lovely dogs. I really enjoyed reading this well-written article, and it was wise to also mention spaying/neutering.

Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 06, 2015:


Michelle B- Grand on November 06, 2015:

hey i liked it so much

Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 05, 2015:

Thanks for stopping by. Whenever I'm feeling blue or just want to smile, I look at puppies :)

Michelle B- Grand on November 05, 2015:

so cute huh

Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 04, 2015:

Thanks. Sure wish I was at the beach right now!

Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 04, 2015:

Great topic. I enjoyed reading this and hearing about all of your choices.

Chantelle Porter (author) from Ann Arbor on November 04, 2015:

It was hard stopping at the number of dogs that I did. They are so wonderful.

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on November 04, 2015:

What a great hub!! Dogs are such amazing companions. Thanks for the info here. Well done.

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