For many of us, a dog plays a central role in our families. They’re sweet, playful and occasionally naughty, but beyond this, they’re said to make us happier and healthier than we could be without a pet. But is this really true?
Well, if you’re committed to giving your dog the exercise it needs and are prepared to make some of that your children’s responsibility, yes – a dog will definitely help to keep your family in better health! Here’s how…
Dogs need regular walking
First and foremost, dogs require regular walking. Of course, the number of hours you’ll need to spend walking your dog each week varies from breed to breed, but a minimum of a 30-minute leg stretch morning, noon and night is advisable to ensure your dog gets the toilet breaks he or she needs, and is happy too.
The good news is that these regular walks are great news for your and your family. Adults should aim to walk at least 10,000 steps a day (though this is a bit of an arbitrary figure), and children should aim for as many as possible. Consider investing in a pedometer to track the number of steps you’re doing while you’re walking the dog, if only to satisfy your curiosity!
A long weekend walk is on the cards
Another reason dogs keep your family fit and healthy is that a pooch really does need at least one very long walk every week, or better yet, every day. If you can’t commit to letting your dog run for miles and miles during the working week, a Sunday walk as a family is a good way to make sure your four legged friend gets some time to run. And, at the same time, you’ll be getting the kids off their screens and into the great outdoors!
Choose a location with nice scenery or amenities (depending on the age of your children), and be sure to kit them out with the right clothing. Children’s waterproofs are a good idea for dog walks, whatever the time of year, and some comfortable walking shoes are a must-have too.
Playing in the garden
As well as all that walking your family will be doing, having a dog means you and the kids might start making more use of your outdoor space. Dogs love escaping the confines of the house to sniff around the garden, and the chances are your children will love following him or her outside in good weather.
Throw a ball, play with a Frisbee, or if space is a little tighter, simply have fun exploring the sights and smells of the garden together. The exercise, daylight and fresh air will do everyone good, including the dog.
Dogs ‘prevent’ allergies
As well as prompting you and your children to get more exercise, dogs play a role in protecting against allergies, infection and asthma. Research has shown that a child’s risk for developing allergies and asthma is reduced when they’re exposed to a dog in the household during the early years of their life, so having a dog can help to keep your family in good physical health too.
Dogs are excellent for maintaining mental health
Finally, dogs play a central role in maintaining good mental health in your family, as this article explains. Having a dog can help adults and children to cope with depression, anxiety and stress, reducing blood pressure and elevating levels of serotonin and dopamine. Dogs fulfil a basic human need to touch, and having the opportunity to stroke or cuddle a dog can really help to soothe children and adults.
As you can see, there are many ways in which having a dog can help to keep you and your family fit and healthy. As well as all the reasons mentioned above, dogs also provide companionship, add structure and routine to our days, and help us to meet new people too.
What’s not to love? Of course, dogs are a major commitment and there’s more to think about if you’re considering getting a dog, but these benefits are good to know nonetheless.
*This is a collaborative post*