When Edith Wharton wrote, “My little dog — a heartbeat at my feet,” she likely didn’t know that science would connect owning a dog with our own heartbeat. Not only do pets, dogs in particular, give us unconditional love, research proves that having a pet benefits a person emotionally, psychologically, and physically.
A study published in the Journal of Scientific Reports found that having a dog reduces cardiovascular risk. That’s because if you have a pooch or any pet that needs regular outdoor exercise, you’re more motivated to be active more often. And that can translate to a longer life. The study found dog owners are 33 percent less likely to die prematurely compared to people who don’t own dogs.
But the benefits of owning a dog are not just physical, they’re emotional, too. Dog owners are more social, and even when living alone they are less likely to feel lonely.
All pets — from dogs and cats to birds, hamsters, and horses — are proven stress soothers. Petting an animal helps release serotonin and dopamine, reduces cortisol, and helps lower blood pressure, according to Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond, School of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University. This could be one reason why pet owners visit their doctors less often for minor issues. It could also be why pet owners report a higher sense of meaning and belonging and are, overall, generally happier and more trusting people.
Need more convincing to adopt? Here are six reasons to adopt a pet, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
1. You’ll save a life.
Every year in the United States, 2.7 million dogs and cats up for adoption are euthanized because there are more adoptees than adopters or space in shelters. Not only are you bringing a new member into your family when you adopt an animal, you’re freeing up shelter space for another who desperately needs it.
2. You’ll get a great animal.
According to the Humane Society, most shelter animals are homeless because of issues like death, divorce, or relocation — not because the animals have done anything wrong or are bad pets. Many are already used to living with families and are house trained and just need a second chance in life.
3. It will cost you less.
You’ll save upfront adopting from a shelter or rescue organization because usually the costs of spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping are included in the adoption fee.
4. Adopting a dog helps fight puppy mills.
Factory-style puppy breeding facilities put profit above the welfare of dogs, bred over and over for years from moms who never experience the love of humans or companionship. They’re usually kept in poor conditions, without medical care, and are often very sick.
5. You’ll both get new BFFs.
You gain a best friend and your adopted pet will love you without judgment.
6. You’ll elevate your selfies.
Your social ranking will improve. How can anyone not like a pic with you and your furry one?