There’s no question that service dogs greatly enhance the quality of life for disabled people and their loved ones. The help they provide makes daily life easier, increases independence, and in many cases even prevents serious harm or saves lives. A post outlining all the benefits of assistance dogs would certainly run on far too long.
Research has also increasingly brought to light a number of health benefits that come with owning a pet dog—benefits that would often extend to partnering with a working canine companion. Some of these benefits are especially important in many instances of disability, too. Below is a quick look at some of the scientifically supported health benefits of having a dog, whether she’s a pet or a partner in coping with your disability.
Improved Heart Health
Dog ownership often means lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and a healthier body weight; this in turn improves heart health and reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Also, people with dogs are more likely to survive a heart attack and are also much more likely to still be alive one year later.
Presumably, this is largely due to the increased physical activity that comes with walking and playing with your dog, so some individuals with impaired mobility may not experience these same effects.
Stronger Stress Resilience
People with animals in their lives feel less stressed and better cope with the physical, mental, and emotional effects of stress. This is good news for the heart, but also for the rest of the body, mind, and soul. Stress commonly causes all sorts of problems, like insomnia, fatigue, chronic headaches and other pain, muscle tightness, suppressed immune function, moodiness, depression, and more.
Because of the tasks they perform and the amazing improvements they bring to quality of life, assistance dogs do a great deal to lower daily stress. But there are further built-in benefits that simply come from sharing your home and your life with a four-legged friend.
Walking your dog, visiting dog parks, and taking your dog out in public invariably prompts more social interactions with strangers, and can even yield more friendships. Of course, for those of us with assistance dogs, sometimes attention from others can be a concern when it causes our dogs to lose focus on important tasks. However, the companionship of a dog can mean more human companionship as well.
Social connections—even fleeting ones with strangers—help keep your mood up and stave off potentially devastating feelings of loneliness. This is particularly essential to people with disabilities that generally limit social activity. Social interactions also do wonders for older individuals who are faced with the prospect of cognitive decline in the senior years.
Thank Your Assistance Dog!
There’s just no overstating how wonderful it is to have a service dog in your life. They do so much to mitigate disability and boost quality of life, and just by being there with you, they provide a variety of very useful health benefits. They’re great for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, contributing to a happier, longer life. So thank your canine companion today!