Getting a dog is a huge responsibility, but for many people, the best things about owning a dog far outweigh the negatives. Dogs have fabulously positive effects on our physical and mental health, besides giving us purpose and unconditional love.
The most popular pet in the world has its fans for good reason – they are our mates, our listening ears, our guardians, and our exercise partners.
Besides the scientific benefits in terms of our health, dogs are huge fun and great companions to share a home with. They fit right into our families, and losing them is akin to a human bereavement. They are, quite simply, man’s best friend.
Let’s take a look at some of the best things about owning a dog.
32 best things about owning a dog
Offering unconditional love and ever-present friendship, dogs help prevent feelings of social isolation, as well as comfort in times of sadness, anxiety or depression. Whether you live alone or not, dogs tend to be considered part of the family.
Everyone knows a dog needs daily exercise, but so do you! A British scientific report found that dog owners were almost four times more likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity than non-dog owners.
Get involved in any kind of jogging with your dog, and you will burn even more calories.
3. The welcome home
All dog owners can appreciate this one – the moment the key slots into our door, cue excited scampering, maybe squeaking, as our loyal pup rushes to welcome us home. Even if we’ve only popped out to the local store for some milk, they greet us like we’ve been away for weeks. That delight in our presence is really quite touching.
4. The waggy tail
Is any other animal quite so open about showing their happiness? They just can’t hide their joy – whether it’s dinnertime, walking time, cuddle time, anytime... The habitually waggy tail is a dog’s most endearing feature – and it makes us smile too.
5. Doggy ears
Whether you own a French Bulldog, with their upright bat ears, a Basset with their droopy ones, a spaniel with their silky ears, or anything in between, dog ears are simply magnificent. Expressive, distinctive, and can communicate a good deal to us about how they are feeling.
6. Their lack of judgment
Your dog never judges you, never criticizes you, never eyes you up cynically as if you’re too fat, too thin, or your clothes sense sucks. We should all channel the canine art of taking people as they are.
7. They make us more sociable
It’s like heading out with a fun friend – everyone gravitates towards them, and because they are so delightful, you are too, by association. Studies show that dog owners find it easier to make friends; the dog being the perfect ice-breaker for strangers to approach you in a non-intimidating way and strike up conversation, all the more so when they are at the puppy stage.
And there’s also the likelihood that you’ll meet up with other dog walkers, chatter away in an easy manner while out for a stroll, and become part of your local community.
8. They help us to cope with whatever life throws at us
There’s a reason that therapy dogs are used in disaster zones as well as care homes, hospices and the like. Studies show that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder gain huge comfort from a service dog and improve their coping mechanisms and quality of life.
9. Health benefits
Dog owners typically have lower blood pressure and are better at dealing with stress than non-dog owners thanks to the human-canine bond, which has been found to reduce anxiety levels. This in turn means a lower risk of cardiovascular problems, and by that stretch, dogs can help us live longer!
10. Ease stress
A Swiss study found that stroking a dog can increase certain brain activity that improves our emotions. Just the ticket after a hard day at work.
11. The look that steals our hearts
Dogs have an uncanny ability to hold your gaze with their beautiful liquid eyes. And this mutual gazing has profound benefits for both the dog and owner if it happens habitually, raising our levels of oxytocin (the “love hormone”).
12. Dogs give you a purpose in life
You can’t ever wonder what the point is of getting out of bed when there’s a hungry pooch downstairs, not only waiting for breakfast but thoroughly, overwhelmingly delighted to see you. Much as you might not relish waking up at 6am on a Sunday morning, he is dependent on your presence.
And in fact, your whole day, week, life revolves around the dog – his feeding times, his exercise, where you work and what time you get home, where he goes when you go on vacation – the list goes on.
13. Great for kids
Providing he has been well socialized, a dog has huge benefits for children’s mental and physical health. Owning a dog teaches them responsibility, gives them a fun playmate, encourages them to exercise, and is a subject to talk about with their peers and teachers.
14. A positive effect on your immune system
Whatever people may say about pets being dirty and the fact that they do trigger allergies in some people, as a general rule, dog owners have a stronger immune system. An Australian survey found that they make fewer visits to the doctor and are less likely to take medication.
And it's not because they are clean – let’s not kid ourselves here. Dogs bring a huge variety of bacteria into the home, but exposing us to this bacterial diversity is key in boosting our immunity.
15. Rapid recovery
Not only do dogs in the home lessen our chances of catching common bugs, but studies show they also help us to recover after major surgery, such as cardiovascular operations. It is thought that the desire to return to the pet and inevitable physical activity involved provides extra motivation to recover quickly. And of course, dog owners tend to be fitter to start with, which helps the post-operative recovery too.
16. Dogs make you more attractive
A study conducted by the Dog’s Trust (the UK’s leading dog welfare charity) found that 60% of the 700 surveyed people said that owning a dog can make others more attractive. Eight-five percent think people are more approachable when they have a dog in tow.
17. Dogs save lives
From house fires to water and mountain rescues, search and rescue, avalanche and police situations, countless stricken humans owe their lives to the courage and tenacity of life-saving dogs.
18. Reduced asthma risk
This might sound contrary to expectations given the amount of hair and dander flying around in a doggy home, but a study shows that children exposed to dogs and farm animals from a young age are associated with a lower risk of asthma.
19. Our loyal guardians
Our dogs will do anything to protect us. In most situations, a warning bark is all that is needed, and simply their presence is enough to deter most people. For many of us, taking our dog with us out on solitary walks has a double bonus, a sense of protection in remote areas as well as wonderful canine company.
20. When dogs look like their owners
Perhaps a narcissistic side of dog ownership, but it’s great fun to see a lady with long flowing blonde hair walking a golden retriever; or a tall skinny man with a rangy greyhound.
21. When our personality mirrors our dog’s
An active dog needs an active owner (spaniels, we’re looking at you), while a couch potato type is happy with a more sedentary lifestyle. It’s less ideal if your dog is bouncing off the walls and you just want a quiet stroll to the café. If you and your dog share common values, you’re on to a winner.
22. They come in all shapes and sizes
When it comes to the canine kingdom, there really is something for everyone and anyone. From tiny Chihuahuas to rangy Great Danes, from stocky Bulldogs to leggy Azawakhs, from popular Frenchies to rare Pharaoh Hounds, there’s so much choice – and they’re all marvellous.
23. Magnificent coats
Bar a few hairless dogs, such as the Xoloitzcuintle, most breeds have an appealing coat to stroke or cuddle up to. Whether it’s curly and so-called hypoallergenic like the Poodle’s, short and silky like the Frenchie, mop-like as exemplified by the Komondor, or huge and shaggy like the mountain dog breeds, there is a wonderful array of coats out there to cherish.
24. They pre-wash the dishes
The jury is out on how appropriate this is – but bacterial diversity has been shown to improve immunity. And the plates go on to have a comprehensive clean in the dishwasher – economizing on pre-washing in the sink.
25. Doggy accessories
High-vis coat for night-time walking, or a fleecy one for frosty days – yes, please! Different leashes to match your hats – why not? An Argentinean gaucho collar or tasteful Christmas jumper – stylish. The list goes on, and you might spend most of your salary on it.
26. Being wowed by their speed
Not all breeds are fast, naturally, but most dogs have a dazzling turn of foot, and even short-legged breeds such as Jack Russell Terriers can reach speeds of 30mph. The fastest dog around, the Greyhound, can sprint up to 45mph! Their zoomies are a sight to behold.
Adorable bundles of fluff, squishy noses, plump tummies. Cuteness overload. And when you breed your own litter, that is a true coming of age moment.
28. Their contagious energy levels
Dogs – especially the working breeds and young ones – are indefatigable, always ready to go, forever keen for a walk or to play fetch, whatever the time, however inclement the weather. We just wish more of that boundless energy would rub off on us.
29. Their aptitude for learning tricks
Dogs love to please, and are very motivated by reward – for some that’s a fuss, for others (most) it’s a titbit treat. Make the most of this motivation and teach them to roll over, shake your hand, play dead on command. It will impress your friends and increase your bond.
30. Canine cuddles
Cuddling your dog boosts your mood, increases oxytocin and lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
31. Dogs keep you young
Owning a dog can not only reduce your risk of dying young, but can also make senior people seem 10 years younger, according to a study at Scottish University St Andrews. This is largely due to the increased exercise levels (regardless of the distance covered) compared to your peers, and the fact that a dog ensures you get out and about in the fresh air, and staying mobile.
32. A ticket to explore
Dogs give us the opportunity to explore our local surroundings, check out trails and venture to new places in our area. Without a dog, many of us wouldn’t have half the local knowledge of the local forests and byways, and our lives would be poorer for it.
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Martha is an experienced journalist working in both print and digital media. She specializes in the canine, equine and rural sphere where she has covered a wide range of topics from cloning animals and the ingredients for a perfect yard dog, to helping owners find the best canine GPS trackers on the market. When she’s not busy writing about dogs and horses, she’ll be found either aboard a horse or looking after the menagerie of pets in her care.