The Great Dog Day of Summer
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” —Josh Billings
Almost anyone who has ever owned a dog will extol their virtues and explain the many reasons why dogs truly are a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. And now you have an opportunity to celebrate your furry friends, appreciate their positive impact on your life, and maybe make their day special with a treat. Today, August 26th, is National Dog Day, a holiday set aside for our canine companions.
As if just being around them with their wagging tails and happy greetings isn’t enough, owning a dog is associated with a wide array of health benefits as well. There is physical activity to consider, since having a dog to care for gets you moving. Even if you have a fenced-in yard, it’s important for your dog to be walked every day. Their exercise should add up to a total of 30 to 60 minutes depending on the age and breed.
In fact, a 2014 study at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland showed that owners made aware that their dog is overweight become more physically active with their pet.1 Even if you do no other form of cardiovascular exercise, a brisk walk with Fido twice a day for 20 minutes each is a very good workout.
Plus, all dogs should have play time sessions in the backyard or a park on a regular basis. You can bond with your dog and work with him on commands such as “fetch” and “come” while also giving both of you some activity. Throwing a ball for 30 minutes will burn approximately 90 calories and help tone muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back. Running together is also great, especially if you have a larger breed of dog. Most dogs will need no encouragement to jog alongside you.
Even bathing your dog can be an energetic experience. Standing to give Fluffy her bath burns approximately 238 calories per hour. And that number might increase by quite a bit if you have a particularly squirmy dog. So skip the groomer if your dog is not in need of a haircut and do your washing at home.
You might want to thank your parents if you grew up with a dog, too. A 2009 study at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand found that living in a home with a dog as a child lowers your risk of developing allergies in both childhood and adulthood.2
Dogs can also be a tremendous boon to our mental health. It is much harder to feel sad or lonely with a devoted companion curling up at your feet and looking at you with love in his eyes. In fact, a 2015 study at Azabu University in Japan showed that dogs and their humans produce greater quantities of oxytocin when they look at each other.3 These feel-good hormones are known for being stimulated by feelings of love.
In addition, dog ownership has been shown to reduce depression, improve mood, and lower stress levels. And for those living alone, having a dog can provide more than just companionship. A dog’s routine provides structure to the day and a sense of responsibility.
But what if you are prohibited from owning a dog due to a lease restriction or an allergic family member? You may not be able to receive all the benefits of dog ownership, but you can still get some of them and help some dogs in need at the same time by becoming a volunteer at a local pet shelter. Your responsibilities will likely include walking and playing with wonderful dogs who need homes and will be happy to be the recipients of your attention. You’ll feel good for donating your time to these furry pals as well as for the stress relief and sheer fun you’ll have with them.
And if you are lucky enough to have a dog of your own, give her a big hug and take her on an extra-long walk tonight!
- 1. Reynolds, Gretchen. "Exercising a Fat Dog (and Yourself)." New York Times. 10 December 2014. Accessed 8 August 2016. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/10/pet-weight-gain/?_r=0.
- 2. Mandhane, Piush J.; et al. "Cats and dogs and the risk of atopy in childhood and adulthood." The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. October 2009. Accessed 9 August 2016. http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749%2809%2900994-4/abstract.
- 3. Nagasawa, Miho; et al. "Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds." Science. 17 April 2015. Accessed 9 August 2016. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/348/6232/333.