I have lived with dogs all my life. The article that follows was written as my take on the very special relationship we have with our dogs and the joys and rewards it brings. I hope you find it interesting and informative. I also thought its inclusion would be a neat way of revealing to you a little more about me the person and how passionate (nutty!) I am about all things dogs.  

The Joy of Owning a dog

The relationship you have with your dog is like no other you will ever have. It is probably the purist relationship we can have with another living thing. In many ways it is the kind of relationship we aspire to have with other people but which, with rare exceptions, we seem unable to achieve.

The only caveat is that a dog's love and devotion is so complete and unconditional that it is open to abuse and being taken for granted which could, of course, be somewhat unhealthy. In my experience, and perhaps a lesson to us all in our human relationships, the receiving of such devotion generally seems to promote and encourage the very best responses from us (witness a nation of some 10.5 million dogs owned by 31% of all households).

So what do dogs do for us?

Companionship. They are a constant and unwavering companion. No matter our moods or behaviour they are there for us, desperate to see us when we get in, eager to please us at all times and sensitive to our body language and every move. They will listen attentively to us, never question us or admonish or scold us. Even if our faults affect their life, they forgive us without judgment and love us just the same. 

Unconditional love. Whatever our moods or behaviour they love us unconditionally. Their are no strings attached, no sulking if we don't respond appropriately and no rows if we don't do just what they want us to do.

Health benefits. No matter how bad your day has been the greeting you get from an excited dog, totally pleased to see you, guarantees you will feel better; washing away stress in an instant . Apart from the additional exercise you are likely to get the physiological and emotional benefits have been well documented in the widespread animal assisted therapy programmes which are used in hospitals, care homes and community centres. There have been a number of research papers clearly showing the positive impact dog ownership and contact can have on human health. For example:-

  • A study of 8,000 Australians showed that pet owners were less likely to get heart disease despite eating more meat and fast food. They had lower blood pressure, cholesterol and got more exercise.
  • In a study of 92 male heart attack patients the first year survival rate was a third better with 6% of pet owners dying in the first year compared to 28% who didn't have pets.
  • Another study showed that dog owners visited their doctors 16% less often than people who didn't own dogs.

Loneliness and self esteem. For people who are on their own (companionship apart) having a dog that needs you brings meaning and joy into your life. It is also a great way of meeting people and making friends. For some reason the commonality of dog ownership seems to remove the normal social barriers to conversation and discussion with strangers.  Keeping and caring for a dog can actually improve a person's self-esteem and feelings of self worth. When you know that you have something that depends on you for everything and loves you so unconditionally, it makes you feel better about yourself.

 

Teaching life skills, particularly for children having a dog teaches them responsibility and respect for living things.

Security and safety. Dogs, even small ones, provide a degree of safety in the home. They will defend their (and your) territory with their life. Their keen sense of smell and hearing will alert you well in advance of any approaching stranger and their barking will act as some deterrent. Outside the home they will protect your personal space with their lives and will certainly pick up threatening body language and unusual behaviour by strangers well before you do.

What a relationship. All they want is to see you, be with you and please you. They offer companionship, loyalty and love and all they ask for is food, exercise, love, cuddles and play in return.

The Joy and pleasure my dog brings to me is beyond measure. She is the most steadfast of friends, never wavering and she provides me with a huge sense of fulfilment and satisfaction through the experience and privilege of taking care of her.