8 Physical And Mental Health Benefits Of Owning A Dog

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We can thank our dogs for many things – laughs, companionship and muddy paw prints on the carpet included. But do you ever stop and think about the more long-term impacts that owning a dog can have on your physical and mental health?

This National Love Your Pet Day (20th February), we are thanking our pets for the health benefits they bring to our lives, from exercise to increasing confidence.

8 mental and physical health benefits of owning a dog

1. You might visit the doctor less

An Australian survey found that dog owners make fewer visits to the GP in a year and are less likely to be on medication for heart problems or sleep issues.

2. You could be less anxious

Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale, Mars Petcare Scientific Advisor, says: “Several studies have found that interacting with pet dogs or therapy dogs is associated with reductions in the stress hormone cortisol and reductions in self-reported anxiety.”

2. You could have lower risk of cardiovascular disease

A nationwide 2017 study in Sweden found that owning a dog could be beneficial in reducing the risk of the owner developing cardiovascular disease, thanks to having increased motivation to exercise and a non-human social support network. Interestingly, the study found that owning hunting breeds lowered the risk the most.

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3. You are more sociable

An American study, which looked at three factors of being sociable – getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks – found that dog owners are five times more likely to know people in their community. They found that dogs, acting as companions, helped owners be more sociable on every level, from one-off interactions to the development of deep friendships.

4. You might live longer

In the Waltham Pocket Book of Human-Animal Interactions there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the physical benefits of having a dog can lead to a longer, healthier life. Section 8 reads: “The many health benefits of regular physical activity are well documented, and include lower rates of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer.”

5. You have higher self-esteem

2017 study by the University of Liverpool found that growing up with a dog can increase self-esteem in children. It also found young people with pets to be less lonely and have enhanced social skills. Lead author, Rebecca Purewal, states: “Critical ages for the impact of pet ownership on self-esteem, appear to be greatest for children under 6, and preadolescents and adolescents over 10.”

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6. You exercise more

A 2019 study by Lintbells found the average dog owner walks 870 miles every 12 months with their pets. That equates to just four miles less than the distance between John o’Groats in Scotland and Land’s End in Cornwall. Just over half of the 2,000 British adults surveyed owned a dog, and they walk, on average, more than 21 miles a week – 17 of which are with their pet. That’s around seven miles more than non dog owners who only clock up 14 miles a week.

7. Children miss less school

Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale says: “Having pets in the home has been linked to enhanced immune function in children, as evidenced by better school attendance rates due to fewer illness-related absences. The effect was particularly strong for younger children (five to eight-years-old) and, in some cases amounted to nearly three extra weeks of school attendance for children with pets.”

8. You are less likely to be lonely

Studies have shown that, out of any other pet, dogs have the strongest connection to loneliness, mainly because they are on show a lot more. Over 80% 0f people who took part in Mars Petcare’s 2018 research said that, just one month after getting a dog, they felt a lot less lonely.

Do Dogs Have Love Languages? Here’s How Your Pup Loves To Love, According To Experts

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Whenever I pick up a bone for my dog Hank at the store, I can hardly contain my excitement before giving it to him because I know that he loves treats more than almost anything in the world. The moment he smells anything tasty, his ears perk up and he begins to run in circles, and trust me — it’s the cutest thing to watch. I think it’s safe to say that every dog loves treats, but besides loving food, do dogs have love languages? According to experts, they definitely do, and figuring out how your pup gives and receives love isn’t as hard as you might think.

According to Dr. Matthew Goetz, medical director at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, deciphering your pup’s love language is all about paying attention to their actions. “If your dog does something that does not benefit them at all but because it keeps you safe or brings you joy, they are doing it out of love,” he tells Elite Daily in an email.

The dog love is real, folks. Michelson Found Animals, an animal welfare non-profit organization, recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 people, and found that 81 percent of respondents consider their pet to be one of the greatest loves of their life. What’s more, 47 percent of people in the survey said their pet actually taught them how to love.

So while you might think of Valentine’s Day as a time to appreciate your romantic partner or your “galentines,” make sure you don’t forget to celebrate your puppy love, too. Here are some of the ways your cute canine shows and receives love.

A WIGGLY BOOTY

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One of my favorite things in the world is asking Hank if he wants to go for a walk, and then watching his excitement skyrocket until he just can’t contain his joy. The adorable doggy butt wiggles are one way of expressing love, says Jessa Paschke, a pet behavioralist with Mars Petcare. “When dogs are with those they love, their body language typically becomes relaxed and very wiggly,” she explains. Show your fur baby some love in return by giving him some extra butt scratches.

A BIG OL’ GRIN

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If your favorite humans are happy, chances are, they’re grinning from ear to ear. It turns out, dogs really do express emotion using their faces, too. According to Paschke, “dogs will also show very soft, almond-shaped eyes, and may even ‘smile’ when in the company of their loved ones.” Praise your very good boy in your most loving voice, and he’s sure to feel the love right back.

SHARING TOYS

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“If your dog brings you one of their favorite toys and drops it at your feet, it’s likely they are giving it to you as a gift,” says Dr. Whitney Miller, director of veterinary medicine at Petco. “Sharing their favorite things is one way they demonstrate love.” Take a few moments to toss the toy around so that you get some good bonding time, and your pup will be sure to know she’s the love of your life.

HE NEVER LEAVES YOUR SIDE

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Does your dog always “protect” you when you’re in the bathroom? This may seem annoying and invasive to you, but Dr. Goetz says this means your little shadow truly loves you. Whether or not you decide to enforce a “no dogs in the bathroom” rule is totally your call, but just know that the nosiness comes from a place of love.

TAKING NAPS WITH YOU

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“Although all animals are individuals, dogs show love by their affection, wanting to be close with and commune with their family,” explains Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, a dog trainer, behavioralist, and CEO of Fun Paw Care. In my opinion, cuddles are one of the absolute best parts of being a dog mom, and it turns out that if your pup loves to sleep next to you, that’s a sure sign that she loves you, too.

GIVING YOU *ALL* THE KISSES

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According to Dr. Angela Hughes, DVM, PhD, a veterinary genetics research manager at Wisdom Health, your pup’s wolf ancestors would lick their mothers’ faces to indicate that they were hungry. “The modern dog uses this instinct to let us know that they care about us and are not a threat,” she tells Elite Daily. “They will also do it as an act to groom you, which is another way to show intimacy.” If your dog seems to love physical touch like this, shower her with belly rubs and head scratches.

JUMPING ALL OVER YOU

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Is there anything better than coming home from a stressful day at work to an angelic puppy jumping all over you because he missed you so much? Not in my book.

Even if this is something you find more annoying than endearing, according to Jennifer Freeman, DVM, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian and pet care expert, for dogs, jumping to greet their owner is an instinctive display of affection and shows how excited they are to be reunited with their favorite human.

JUST SPENDING TIME TOGETHER

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Bottom line: If your adorable dog wants to spend every second of her day with you, she loves you. Spending one-on-one time with your pup — whether you go for a long walk, hit the dog park, or just cuddle up for a long Friends marathon — hanging out together is a great way to make sure your fur baby is feeling extra loved on Feb. 14.

Dog Personalities Can Shift Just Like Those of Humans, Study Says

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We like to imagine that all dogs are good dogs — and the vast majority of them never give us a reason to question that belief — but just how good they are is something that can change over time. A new study suggests that canine personalities aren’t set in stone and, just like humans, they can go through dramatic personality changes based on life events.

The research, which was published in Journal of Research in Personality, is the largest study of dog personality ever conducted. Over 1,600 dogs spanning 50 different breeds were included in the work, which surveyed pet owners and attempted to draw links between life events and changes in the behavior of the animals and their caretakers.

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs—and to a surprisingly large degree,” William Chopik, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals.”

The researchers found that the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks does have some basis in reality, with older animals being harder to train once they are set in their ways. But what was particularly interesting to the scientists was how the personalities of dogs tended to follow that of their owners.

Active and outgoing individuals tended to be matched with dogs that were the same, while dogs that were anxious or hostile had owners that were more negative. Pets that were more excitable and happy were also shown to be easier to train, while the fearful and anxious animals didn’t respond as well to direction.

“There are a lot of things we can do with dogs—like obedience classes and training—that we can’t do with people,” Chopik explains. “Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals.”

Do Dogs Have Belly Buttons?

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Humans, navel-gazing and self-obsessed beings as we are, are nothing if not relentlessly and unapologetically anthropocentric. We tend to assume that our experience of the world is the only one that counts, and that anything that is different from us is either strange, weird or otherwise unaccountable. Hence we ask questions like, “Do dogs have belly buttons?” For all placental mammals, of which humans are only one species, an umbilical cord is a necessary part of typical gestation. In humans, a belly button is a scar, a physical reminder of our nine months as uterine passengers.

Do dogs have belly buttons in the same place as humans?

A man petting a dog flipped over on his stomach.

Dogs are physiologically different from humans in many ways; the difference most relevant to the answer, “Do dogs have belly buttons?” is the positioning of a dog’s nipples and navel. In humans, the nipples are toward the top of the torso and the navel toward the bottom. In both male and female dogs, the navel is flanked on either side by nipples.

One reason we think to ask, “Do dogs have belly buttons?” is that we are accustomed to having generally less body hair than dogs and thus having our navels more readily visible. Following a successful whelping, a mother dog removes the umbilical cords from her puppies. Not only is this scar negligible in size compared to a human navel — and generally flat — but it is also rapidly obscured by fur.

There can be no doubt about whether dogs have umbilical cords. Where you find an umbilical cord, you’ll find a belly button. This means that the answer to another frequently asked question — to wit, “Do cats have belly buttons?” — is likewise a resounding yes. In humans, of course, the scar is far more plainly visible — it either sticks out or appears as a small lint-attracting chasm in our lower abdomen.

How do you find your dog’s belly button?

The next question that comes to mind after, “Do dogs have belly buttons?” is how can you find them? Unlike humans, a dog’s belly button is really only visible and noticeable for a short time after birth. For many short- or medium-haired dogs, the best place to seek evidence of the former connective point of the umbilical cord is right around the little tuft of hair where your dog’s coat meets around the base of the ribs. What we might refer to as a dog’s belly button is usually a small thin scar located just below the end of the ribcage, and just above the start of the abdomen.

As far as belly buttons in the animal kingdom go, humans are outliers to have such apparent navels. We’re certainly the only species of placental mammals to decorate them with tattoos or furnish them with jewelry. Monotremes (egg-laying mammals such as the platypus) and marsupials (pouched mammals like the kangaroo) are really the only mammals out there that have no need of a true umbilical cord, and thus not to have a belly button of any kind. Most other placental mammals are more like dogs and cats, in that they have a navel scar which simply fades with time.

A dog’s herniated belly button

Another question that follows after, “Do dogs have belly buttons?” might be, “What if my dog’s belly button is really apparent?” Indeed, the only time you’d have reason to notice a dog’s belly button is if something goes wrong with a puppy’s development. A hernia is one such unfortunate situation. As you may know, a hernia is basically a condition where something meant to be securely positioned inside the body bulges out. An umbilical hernia in dogs is a medical condition in which the small wound created when the umbilical cord is severed does not close over or heal properly. Normally, a wall of muscle seals itself after birth at the spot where the umbilical cord was connected.

In my youth, I had a dog who had a very small knob-like bump where its flat belly button should have been. I never gave it a second thought, but it was probably an uncomplicated umbilical hernia. An uncomplicated umbilical hernia presents no cause for concern, and will often subside of its own accord.

With a complicated umbilical hernia, in which parts of the internal abdomen, such as a bit of intestine, protrude through the gap in the muscle wall. It’s only when you notice a dog with a pronounced dog belly button at all that you should give a dog’s navel any serious thought. Since this kind of hernia is most common in young puppies, most canine patients can have the problem surgically repaired around the same time that they are spayed or neutered.

Although they can occur in any breed, certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to develop umbilical hernias, either complicated or uncomplicated. Prospective owners of Airedale TerriersBasenjisBeagles, and Pekingese should keep a close watch on newborns and puppies in the first few months of life, just to be safe.

Can you find your dog’s belly button?

Dog belly buttons are inherently fascinating to humans from the moment we notice them as infants or toddlers. While many animals play with or poke around in their ears, we are probably the only ones that bother with the spot where our umbilical cord once provided nutrients and waste disposal during gestation.

Tell us: Have you ever patted or rubbed your dog’s belly, just sort of feeling around to see if you could locate the navel? Has your dog ever dealt with an umbilical hernia? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography © GeorgePeters | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

This piece was originally published in 2014.

The 10 Best Apartment Dogs Might Surprise You

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Today, let’s talk about the best apartment dogs. First off, many dog owners will tell you that dogs and apartment living don’t go together. But you don’t need a huge yard in suburbia for your dog to be happy. If you live in an apartment and you want a dog, there’s a wide variety of breeds that make good apartment dogs. If you haven’t already acquired a dog, check out our list of breeds (or mix of breeds; we LOVE mutts) below that make the best apartment dogs.

First, Size Doesn’t Always Matter When it Comes to Choosing the Best Apartment Dogs

A Greyhound dog.

Just because a dog is small doesn’t mean he’ll make the cut for good apartment dogs. Some small-breed dogs are far too vocal to meet the requirements of the best apartment dogs. Others are too antsy and have too much energy to be cooped up, even if their smaller size makes the space seem bigger. For example, though he is among the smallest dog breeds, the Chihuahua doesn’t make our list of top apartment dogs because of the breed’s tendency to bark, as well as his energetic, nervous demeanor. However, many Terriers, though they are high energy, tend to make the best apartment dogs as long as they get enough exercise.

Some large breeds also make excellent dogs for apartments. For example, the Greyhoundis often thought to need room to run because he was bred to do just that. But many rescued Greyhounds are retired racers and are much more inclined to lie around with that sexy, languid look than to chase bunnies on sticks. And, again, as long as exercise requirements are met, many large dogs can live comfortably in an apartment or a small house.

10 Best Apartment Dogs (Small to Large)

Yorkshire Terrier.

1. Yorkshire Terrier:

At around 7 pounds, this extra-small wonder makes the list of best apartment dogs not only because he takes up little space but also because he is not a barker. He is also friendly with people and other pets and very adaptable to new experiences.

2. Maltese:

The slightly larger Maltese (around 9 pounds) has a silky coat with no undercoat that sheds very little, making cleaning in a small space easier. He is also a quiet dog who mostly wants to be where his owner is, earning him a solid spot on this roundup of good apartment dogs.

3. Boston Terrier:

At 12 to 18 pounds, this breed is also very attached to his owner, which means he doesn’t mind being indoors in a small space as long as his owner is attentive. He is also an easily trainable dog.

4. French Bulldog:

A smallish dog (around 20 pounds) with the traits of a larger dog. He is calm and quiet, often relaxing on the most comfortable seat in the place. His practical demeanor makes him suitable for any living space, including an apartment.

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

This is one of the friendliest breeds, making it easy to deal with other tenants and their dogs. At 13 to 18 pounds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is also calm and very adaptable.

6. English Bulldog:

This is the larger cousin of the French Bulldog who weighs 49 to 55 pounds, a stable dog who is comfortable in small spaces. Indeed, most seem to prefer the couch to the dog park.

7. Basset Hound:

This breed might not seem likely to land on the list of best apartment dogs with his bulky stature (around 60 pounds), but like the Bulldog, he is a very calm dog who is easily kept busy with treat toys and lots of petting.

8. American Staffordshire Terrier:

The show dog version of the American Pit Bull Terrier is more dog-friendly than his cousin. He is easily trained and forms a tight bond with his owner. As long as he gets adequate exercise, he is a good apartment dog. He weighs 55 to 65 pounds.

9. Greyhound:

This racing dog (60 to 80 pounds) might seem an odd choice for a list of best apartment dogs, but retired Greyhounds are some of the biggest canine couch potatoes. They are very trainable and adaptable. They seem to appreciate a more sedentary lifestyle.

10. Great Dane:

“Huge dogs” don’t seem to be good candidates for “great apartment dogs,” but the Great Dane (at a majestic 100 to 130 pounds) is such a natural loafer that, though your couch will probably be fully occupied, he’ll take up far less space than you might think. Add to that his calm demeanor, friendliness, trainability and quiet nature, and the Great Dane makes an excellent choice among best apartment dogs.

If you live in or are moving to an apartment or small house and already have a dog, don’t worry. The following tips can help you all live happily in a small space.

10 Tips for Having the Best Apartment Dogs — No Matter What Breed(s) Your Dogs Is

French Bulldog lying down by Shutterstock.

1. Acclimate:

If you’ve adopted a new puppy or adult dog, or if you’re moving your current dog into a small space, try to acclimate him slowly by visiting for shorter and then longer periods.

2. Be present:

Again, if an apartment or small house is a new environment for your dog, try to stay with him as much as possible. Go out for short periods alone at first, and then lengthen them.

3. Create space:

Think storage, storage, storage when it comes to furniture. Anything that takes up space should serve as storage as well. Try to keep as much floor space open as possible.

4. Darken and lighten:

Apartments can be very dark because of the surrounding buildings. They can also get too much light if they’re high up. Drapes and special bulbs can help keep the lighting natural.

5. Establish a routine:

This is vital for dogs who have to wait to go outside. Feeding and walking times should be consistent.

6. Find a good trainer:

One trait that all good apartment dogs have — they’re not prone to be excessively vocal. If you’re having behavioral issues such as a dog who won’t stop barking, find a trainer in your area who specializes in that issue.

7. Get a bench:

A small or large bench against a windowsill gives your dog a place to jump up and observe the world — and also makes the space seem larger.

8. Hire a dog walker:

The best apartment dogs are the dogs who get adequate exercise and enrichment. For the times when you can’t get your dog out for extra exercise, a trusted dog walker is a necessity.

9. Invest in a gate:

If you have a studio or open floor plan, make sure you can put a gate up to keep your dog separated from others. Using the kitchen or bathroom often works. Also, make that space your dog’s haven with his bed and toys.

10. Juggle those balls:

It’s perfectly fine to play fetch in your apartment, as long as it’s not too early or too late. Installing rugs helps absorb the noise of dog nails. You don’t have to be at the dog park to have fun with your dog.

Get more tips for living with your dog in a city here >>

A few final thoughts on the best apartment dogs

It’s easy to find a dog who will live well in an apartment or small-house setting. Size isn’t everything — quiet, lower-energy, non-working dogs are really what make the best apartment dogs. And if you already have a dog who needs to adapt to a small space, remember: If our dogs are with us and we’re happy, they’re happy, too. Rather than fretting over sharing a small space, look at it as a bonding experience. After all, tripping over each other is just a game of tag, if you look at it that way.

Tell us: Do you live in an apartment with a dog? What do you think of our tips? What other breeds — or mixes — should be on the best apartment dogs list? Let us know in the comments!