Across the country, millions of people are suddenly spending much more time at home as a result of COVID-19. While the time with our loved ones is nice, this year has not been easy. At this time, one third of Americans show signs of clinical depression and anxiety. There are plenty of causes for this sudden rise, such as loneliness and less community contact, but how can Americans combat this?
Surely, you can guess one way… Getting yourself a companion pet, like a dog or cat!
Aside from being adorable sources of joy and stress relief, puppies improve our overall physical health. Studies show that dog owners are more likely to live long lives. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists a variety of health benefits from owning a companion pet. Having a dog can:
- Decrease blood pressure
- Decrease cholesterol levels
- Decrease triglyceride levels
- Decrease feelings of loneliness
- Increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Improve the health of your heart
Social & Emotional Benefits
The benefits don’t stop there! Families with dogs have better overall social and emotional health as well. Not only do dogs give you more social opportunities (even if you’re just talking to them) but they also have the ability to teach us how to socialize.
In fact, a recent three-year study of 1,646 households with preschool children ages 2 to 5 looked specifically at the ways family dogs help children socialize thoughtfully. This study suggests that young children with dogs were 23% less likely to have issues social interaction than children whose households do not have a dog. Additionally, children who have dogs were 34% MORE likely to engage in considerate behaviors, such as sharing or helping others.
Could this mean children are learning to be playful and friendly from their pets? Well, this study indicates when kids play with pets multiple times a week, they are 74% more likely to be consistently considerate in social situations. Sounds like puppy love to us! Read more on which breeds are best for families here.
How to Get the Best of These Benefits
Now that we know having a puppy can improve your emotional and physical health, let’s talk about the ways you can really capitalize on these opportunities. There are many activities that will increase you and your pets’ wellness tremendously.
Here are seven actions you can take to get the most out of your bond with your dog:
Show Your Puppy Love
You and your pet may not speak the same language, but dogs understand affection and what it means. Show your puppy love in a way that speaks to them. Some dogs are keen on cuddling, while others prefer more personal space but go crazy for a belly rub. You know your dog best, so be sure to spend time every day giving them love and affection in a way that will make them happy.
Chat with your pet
People may call you crazy, but talking to your dog is a great way to stimulate them! Dogs understand a lot of different words and phrases and are great listeners. Talking to your pets strengthens your bond and helps them learn more words and phrases. “Chatting” with them can turn even the boring parts of the day into bonding opportunities.
Tell them they are a “good dog” and share a story that includes some of their favorite phrases like “ball” and “walk” or “play” and watch them turn their heads as they hang on your every word. A word of caution: if saying a word like “walk” sets your dog into a frenzy of excitement about going for a walk, you might have to do it!
Watch one of our favorites from this awesome trend of telling dogs stories with their favorite words:
You can try it too! Share their reactions and spread the joy by tagging us on social media.
Studies show dogs respond best to these “dog words” but you can tell them anything you want! Dogs are amazing listeners and many people often find comfort in confiding in their “Fido.” Talking to dogs is a technique many therapists use when helping people cope with difficult situations. Dogs are a fantastic soundboard and talking to your pet about your daily problems is a good way to vent and maintain mental health.
Recognize their humor
Dogs are some of the happiest and most comical creatures out there! Take time to enjoy their sense of humor and quirky nature. Dogs feed off their owners’ energy, so if you are acting silly or excited, they will likely join in! One fun way to enjoy their whimsy is to try the #HypeYourDogChallenge where dog owners clap for their pups and enjoy their priceless reactions:
Show us your pet’s funny reaction by tagging us on social media for a chance to be featured!
Share your joy
Counteract some of the somber updates lately with power of puppy love! Provide some refreshing sources of joy for your friends and family by sharing photos or videos of your fur-babies being cute. Spending time with pets encourages the release of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that help us de-stress and feel good. Sharing a photo or video can have a similar effect!
For tips on how to get the best photo of your dog, visit our blog about how to photograph puppies written by our expert puppy photographer.
Do something together
Spend quality time with your pets by doing something special together. Take a trip to the lake or simply explore the toy section of your favorite pet store. No matter what it is, engaging in an activity together is a great way to entertain your pet and increase your bond.
With younger puppies, taking them somewhere like Home Depot or a pet-friendly restaurant is also a great way to give them socialization and exposure to new situations. Be sure their vaccinations are up to date before taking them somewhere in public.
Go for a walk
Exercise is essential for the health of you and your puppies! Dogs, like people, need to get moving for at least thirty minutes every day. If you live in Arizona, you should only give your dog this opportunity for exercise early in the morning or late in the evening during the hot summer months. Even if you don’t live in the desert, asphalt everywhere absorbs heat and can get up to 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. Watch out for those puppy paws! Read more on the dangers of heat here.
Play a game
Too hot for a walk? There are several ways you can play engaging games with your dog that can provide exercise and stimulation. Get a ball and play a classic game of fetch to get their blood pumping! Some dogs also love to play Hide-and-Seek. Try throwing a ball and, while they fetch, run and hide behind or bed or door before they see you. Try not to laugh as your dog begins searching for you. Hint: if your hiding spot is too good, you may need to call their name a couple times to help them out.
Even if you are cooped up in the house, you can play in several different ways. Try tug of war, keep away or a classic game of chase. Maybe you chase them, or they chase you! It all depends on your puppy’s unique personality. No matter who your dog is, if you’re showing enthusiasm, they will get excited too.
Whatever game you choose, playing with your dogs shows them that you care. It also helps reduce anxiety that many dogs experience when you are gone if you take time to play and/or exercise before you leave and when you come home. Looking for more creative ideas for dog friendly games? Check out our blog on this very topic!
Getting A Puppy During the Pandemic
It is clear by now that many of us have already turned to the power of the puppy during this pandemic. They are playing an important role in keeping Americans happy during a stressful year. Nationwide, we have witnessed the largest spike in history for the demand for dogs for these reasons.
Dogs are proven to improve overall physical and mental health, but adopting one does not replace medical attention that you may need. New puppy owners during this time also need to consider their routines for their pets in the future when we return to “normalcy.” While working from home is a great opportunity to house-train and spend time with a new puppy, owners must prepare their pets for inevitable time alone to prevent separation anxiety by incrementally spending more time apart and getting them used to crates and/or alone time.
While we do not know when that day will come, one thing is for sure: now is the time to bond with your pets. According to the American Heart Association, spending time with your pet is good for your heart too! It is relaxing and encourages the release of endorphins, which are brain chemicals that help us de-stress and feel good.
So for now, continue to hold your pets close, and everyone else six feet away!