An apple a day may or may not actually keep the doctor away, but what about an animal a day? Now, that’s a different story. In fact, when it comes to pet ownership, there are a number of proven health benefits for people, including physical, mental and emotional improvements, from enhancing social skills to decreasing a person’s risk of heart attack. Keep reading to find out five reasons to open your home to a furry friend, and why doing so might be just what the doctor ordered.
No. 5: Breathe Easier
If the idea of cuddling with a pet to help ward off allergies seems a little backwards to you, the following may come as a surprise: University of Wisconsin-Madison pediatrician James E. Gern has conducted a number of studies that demonstrate having a pet in the home can actually lower a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. In fact, his research — as published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology — shows that children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall. While this might not mean much for adults who are already struggling with longstanding allergies, it is good news for families in which this isn’t already an established issue, but rather just a concern about what could happen down the road.
No. 4: Meet and Greet
One of the fringe benefits of taking on the responsibility of pet ownership is that animals can be an instant icebreaker, whether they’re with you or you’re just using them as a topic of conversation. Of course, few people would suggest getting a pet solely for this purpose, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that pets provide a great means for improving your socialization skills across the board, especially in terms of meeting and interacting with other pet owners. Though people sometimes may have a hard time getting to know each other, pets can be the common denominator that helps them connect — even among people who don’t seem to be very much alike.
Places to Mix and Mingle with your Pet
There are plenty of ways a pet could help expand your social circle. You just need to know where to go:
Training classes: Many instructors offer group classes such as puppy kindergarten, where you’ll find others trying to master the same pet parenting skills.
Dog parks: A great opportunity for both you and your dog to play and interact with other dogs and owners alike. Just be sure your dog is properly socialized and up to date on all shots before introducing it into the mix.
Outdoor cafes: Many restaurants with outdoor seating options are also pet-friendly, and some even offer dog-specific items on the menu as well.
Online: Dogster.com, Catster.com and Petpop.com are just a few examples of popular pet-focused social networking sites that provide an instant, fun way to trade tips, trends and more.
Image: kevin dooley / Flickr