Dogs fill our hearts with warmth and joy. Man’s best friend, they stick at our sides – always at the ready. They go with us to the park and maybe even to work. We take care of all their needs and love them unconditionally, but we also gain so much from having them in our lives.
If you have had a pet, you probably know the exact feeling.
I’ll never forget the day my husband finally crumbled and said we could adopt a dog. We had been married for nearly two years, but I had spent the previous four to five years trying to talk him into adoption. A fur baby was what I wanted deep down in my soul, and just after my birthday, we brought Rocco home from the shelter.
Two-years-old and cute as can be, we knew Rocco would come home with us the moment we laid eyes on him. He melted our hearts with his silly, slightly lopsided eyes and toothy smile. (Although his paperwork called him a Corgi/French Bulldog mix until the vet decided he’s probably more along the lines of a Bully/Pit/Australian Cattle/Terrier/Frenchie mix).
From then on, our lives have been happier, filled with love, laughter, and a feeling of contentment that I didn’t expect to last. Rocco may not have brought us together, but he made us a family.
Emotion aside, my inquisitive nature drove me to figure out why and how a simple adoption made our lives so enjoyable. Why am I – a person who struggles with anxiety and depression – becoming so happy in this little dog’s world?
My research led me to many reasons dogs truly boost your happiness, and even your overall health and wellness. While you may gain some of these benefits from other types of pets or from buying a dog rather than adopting, I hope you take these science-backed tips as reasons adoption furthers these gains. There are so many ways that saving a life pays off for you as a dog owner.
Here are seven ways science proves that adopting a dog will boost your happiness. Use these happiness hacks to create a non-toxic life for yourself inside and out.
1) Positive Thinking and Optimism Increases
Pet ownership leads many people to become more optimistic and less depressed over time. Numerous studies show that merely having a pet can help lessen symptoms of depression in owners. Still, this simple act is proven to help owners maintain a more positive, optimistic view of life as well. Because positivity has much to do with staying in the present moment, dogs help us on a chemical level.
2) Stress Melts with Each Walk
Regular walks not only allow your dog to go potty, but they also make you happier. Based on Rover’s recent survey of pet owners in the United States, a whopping 93% of dog owners find that walking their dog helps them de-stress, make new friends, and form lasting bonds with their neighbors.
Other studies on happiness and wellness even prove that talking walks around the block daily further helps you stay healthy. You get your daily dose of sunlight, fresh air, and active movement. Each of these is keys to reducing stress and keeping up the serotonin levels necessary for happiness.
3) You Trust More and Fear Less
Dogs won’t just boost your happy hormones. Spending time with your furry friend also increases your levels of oxytocin, the love hormone, which increases feelings of trust while decreasing fear. In other words, oxytocin helps you and your dog unwind. You both reap the benefits.
For oxytocin level to rise, all you need to do is look at your pet. Stare into your dog’s eyes for a moment. The longer you look into those windows to the soul, the more oxytocin is released. No wonder cute puppy dog eyes get us every time, right?!
4) Helpful Mood and Energy Boosts
Many people love how adopting a dog helps them get or stay in shape. But did you know that regular walks make you happier on a chemical level? When your blood starts pumping on a walk with your pup, endorphins releases in the body to lift your mood and provide energy. The mood boost and increase in productivity stimulate the rest of your day and happiness overall.
Plus, spending time outdoors in a nature-esque, grassy area has been shown to drive the results further, as being out in nature reduces anxiety and stress while increasing our ability to connect with other people (not just furry friends). Scientists even found evidence proving there’s something about nature that breaks down stress beyond what exercise alone could achieve.
5) Give a Pat and Receive Happy Chemicals
We already discussed how vital serotonin is to our happiness. When it comes to getting an instant serotonin boost, dogs are excellent because all it takes is a simple pat on the head. A study from The University of Missouri-Columbia found that petting your dog for only a few minutes can drastically increase levels of the happy, calming chemicals we call serotonin and dopamine. How easy is that?
6) You May Kick Depression Goodbye
Whether you struggle with depression/anxiety or not, I think we can all agree chemical imbalances in our brains cause some issues. Anxiety and depression are hard to handle. That said, studies show that dog owners are four times less likely to deal with depression than those without pets to care for. If you have depression and/or anxiety, adopting a dog may help you deal with your reality better. I know it worked for me!
7) Alerts You to Pay Attention to Your Health
Dogs are known to alert you of intruders, but thanks to their powerful sniffers, they can also alert us to dangerous allergens in our environment or illnesses in our bodies. Their noses are between 1,000 and 1,000,000 times stronger than human noses. That’s powerful enough to sniff out cancer, diabetes, and other diseases in the medical world, perhaps even before you know the problem exists.
When it comes to combating diseases, sometimes a little extra time is all you need.
So Why Adopt a Dog if Science Shows Happiness Boosts with Any Pet?
By adopting a dog, you save a life that needs you. Your dog comes fixed, so you also help break the terrible cycle of pet overpopulation, which leads to 5-9 million pet euthanizations each year. Adoption allows you to support a charitable cause. You’re helping the local shelter in your area with your donation, which they can then use to save, feed, and protect countless other animals.
Plus, adoption gives you the best gift you could imagine: a happier, healthier life.
I’d never trade anything for the bond I have with my adopted dog, Rocco. I’m happier, healthier, and much less anxious or depressed. We have spent about three years as a makeshift family now, and I think the silent language and understanding between us is much more powerful than I’ve experienced with past (non-adopted) dogs.
Maybe it’s just us. How has your dog helped boost your happiness? Did you adopt? Share your experiences in the comments below.