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The Mood Boosting Power of Owning a Dog

Dogs have long been known as “man’s best friend.” Having been domesticated for upwards of 15,000 years, dogs have provided companionship, protection, and love for their human counterparts with unwavering loyalty. Studies show that dog owners are happier, healthier, and more fulfilled than those who don’t own a dog. Dogs keep their owners active by requiring consistent walks and playtime, but they can also help boost mood and overall well-being. 

Constant Companionship

The companionship a dog provides is unrivaled. No matter your social or relationship status, your dog is always happy to be with you. From long hikes and camping trips to simple walks to the corner store, having a dog means the option of always having a friend by your side. 

If you’re lucky enough to take your dog to work with you, you might just raise the morale of the whole office! Studies show that bringing your pet to work encourages a work-life balance and reminds employees to take regular breaks during long workdays. 

Feelings of Security and Safety

While not all dogs make great watchdogs, having a dog in your home can create a feeling of safety or security. Knowing that your dog will protect you, or at least alert you to possible intruders can give you peace of mind. 

Unconditional Love

There’s an old saying, “I hope to one day be the person my dog thinks I am.” Your dog loves you unconditionally; dogs don’t care if you have your hair done, wear the latest clothes or own the most up-to-date technology – they are just happy to be by your side! Dogs see you at your best and at your worst, and they love you just as you are.

If you’ve recently moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or you’ve recently gone through a tough break-up, consider adopting a dog to keep you company and provide you with love and friendship.

Sense of Purpose

Dogs bring their owners a sense of purpose; tending to your dog’s needs, from feeding to exercise to playtime, taking care of your dog can give you a sense of fulfillment. Having another living being to love and care for helps your brain produce a lot of “feel good” hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin, which all lend themselves to your overall emotional well-being. 

If you are feeling lost, directionless, or stagnant, consider adopting a dog. Even moreso, consider adopting a rescue dog. Rescue dogs, more than others, are sincerely grateful for a loving, warm home with a pet parent that cares about them. Who knows – that sad, lonely mixed breed at the shelter may end up saving you just as much as you saved him.

Better Overall Health

Having a dog in your life keeps you active and engaged, encouraging you to get outside to go for walks or go spend time on the beach while your dog paddles through the water. Breaking a sweat in the sunshine is mood-booster for anyone, but having a dog to encourage you to get out more often benefits both your mental and physical health. In fact, it’s even backed by science! According to a study at Miami University in Ohio, dog owners have a generally overall better well-being than those who don’t have a dog, as well as less fearful and more physically fit! 

Having a dog is a commitment for the lifetime of your dog. From puppyhood to his senior years, your dog requires adequate nutrition, training, veterinary care, and physical and mental stimulation. In turn, you receive a lifetime of love, friendship, entertainment, and fulfillment that only a dog can provide. 

Abi Pennavaria is a loving dog mom, avid volunteer vet, and co-author of Saved By The Bark blog. She enjoys sharing tips and tricks for dog owners of all breeds.




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Playing with Your Dog

Playing regularly with your puppy will help you form a strong bond.  The purpose of play is to develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives, such as impulse control.  The more games you play with your puppy, the more he will consider you to be the most interesting thing in his world. Encouraging puppies to play with toys provides a good outlet for their physical and mental energies.

You puppy should have two sets of toys:  toys that he can play with by himself and ‘interactive toys’ that he can only play with you.  Keep the interactive toys put away so you initiate play and keep you and the toys interesting to your puppy.  

Developing interest in the toy

Rather than just offer your puppy a new toy, take it out, play with it yourself, or play catch with another family member and act like you are having fun.  Then put the toy away.  Repeat this until your puppy is chomping at the bit to join in the play.  Keep toy moving/wiggling along the ground. Then select your special toys that you will put away after every play session.

Enthusiasm first, control later

Build enthusiasm for play first, then put in controls like sit and wait later.  Keep the games fun!!

Types of Games

Fetch – often preferred by herding dogs, retrievers and hounds

Tug – often preferred by guard dogs and bull breeds

Shake and Kill- often preferred by terriers

Rules of the Games

Invite your puppy to play with you often

With Tug of War, win more often than you lose

Do not play too roughly

Teach him to “Drop It” on command – stop tugging and trade for treat

Stop before your puppy gets bored – play several short sessions per day

Stop playing immediately if you feel any teeth to skin

Stop playing if your puppy begins to growl or gets over-excited

Always put the toy away after the game

Teaching impulse control

Teaching your puppy control during games will help your adult dog maintain control, even in times of stress or excitement.  After your puppy has developed great enthusiasm for the games, practice sits/waits, downs/waits and recalls before and during play.

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Accept Reaching Hands and Touching

Often dogs, especially small dogs, are ‘hand shy’. If you notice that when you reach toward their head or collar that they back up or flinch, then try the exercises below.

This exercise will help hand shy dogs become more comfortable with being touched. It is important to begin practicing with familiar and accepted adults first. Again, keep in mind that your objective is not for the dog to merely tolerate, but rather to remain relaxed and enjoy the process, and that an inexperienced helper can get bitten if you proceed too quickly without making sure that the dog is truly accepting rather than merely tolerating the touching. 

Goal 1: Relaxed Dog will accept face touch from owner and/or helper. 

1. Reach toward dog, stop 6 in. from side of dog’s face, treat from other hand. 

2. Repeat reach toward dog, stopping 3 inches from face, treat from other hand. 

3. Repeat reach, stopping 2 inches from face, then repeat stopping 1 inch from face. 

4. Lightly touch the side of dog’s face. 

5. Repeat toward chin. 

GO SLOWLY THROUGH THESE STEPS  – ONLY MOVE ON TO CLOSER OR FASTER TOUCHING WHEN DOG IS HAPPY AND RELAXED.

SAY ‘GOTCHA’ AS YOU REACH TOWARD DOG TO MAKE IT FUN

Goal 2: Relaxed dog will accept collar and body touch from owner and/or helper. 

1. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the dog’s head with the other. 

2. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the dog under the ear and on the ear. 

3. As you feed the treat with one hand, touch the side of the dog’s neck. 

4. As you feed the dog with one hand, touch the collar. 

5. As you feed with one hand, touch the dog’s chest, front legs, back, lower back, belly, down the back legs, the tail, and finally the paws. 

6. Progress to touching from different positions and at different speeds. 

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