Dogs have a homeless problem, too. Approximately 3.3 million dogs are currently living in shelters in the United States, waiting for their forever homes. If you’ve been thinking about sharing your life with a canine companion, now’s the time to find your match at a local animal shelter.
As part of National-Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, we thought we’d shine a light on all the ways a shelter dog could improve your life:
- Improve your fitness level — Chances are, having a dog will get you up off the couch and out for a walk more often. In fact, dog owners are more likely to get the recommended 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of physical activity per week than those without dogs. One study showed that dog owners actually took 2,730 more steps per day than those without dogs.
- Help with weight loss— Sedentary adults who were matched with loaner dogs five days a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds over a year, according to one study. The participants didn’t even consider it exercise because “the dogs need us to walk them.”
- Reduce the risk of allergies — Children raised with dogs are less likely to have asthma as children and less apt to have allergies as adults. Early exposure to dog hair and dander can help their immune systems build a strong defense against exposure later in life.
- Better heart health — Dog ownership has been shown to lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels, which helps reduce the risk for heart disease. Dogs even help with recovery; people who suffer a heart attack have higher one-year survival rates if they own a dog.
- Improve human interaction — Nothing opens the door for conversation with new people like a dog. Especially if you’re strutting the street with a shelter mix: People can’t resist guessing what the heck it is, a basset hound–min pin–husky mix?
- Get your nurturing on — Do you have an urge to take care of something, not quite as basic as a houseplant but not ready for a child? Many millennials are delaying parenthood in favor of having “fur babies.” In fact, millennials are now the largest pet-owning segment of the population.
- The happiness factor — The companionship of a dog is one of the best antidotes for loneliness. Compared to those who don’t have dogs, owners have higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, known as the “happy neurotransmitters.” After all, who can resist that nose pressed up against the window waiting for you to pull in the driveway, and the thwap of the tail against the floor welcoming you home?
- Lower stress levels — Dogs have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in both adults and children. For children with autism spectrum disorder, the mere presence of a dog can have a calming influence, leading to significantly higher positive social behaviors.
- Guard your safety — A dog’s sense of hearing and smell far surpasses the same human senses. He or she can detect danger and sound the alarm with barking, long before your home security system will.
- Lower healthcare costs — Studies in Austria and Germany linked pet ownership with decreased doctor visits, leading to healthcare savings of $3.86 billion over the span of 10 years.
Another great thing about shelter dogs? Many adult dogs already have potty training down and even know some behavioral commands. So what are you waiting for? Check out a shelter near you and see if your loyal, loving companion is waiting for you.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.