The Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Pets
How caring for a pet can bring powerful mental health benefits
While the rewards of owning a dog are huge, so too are the responsibilities. To find the perfect dog, it’s important to choose one that best fits in with your lifestyle.
If you’ve decided a dog is the right pet for you, congratulations. People with dogs tend to be healthier and happier. They also suffer less from depression, stress, high blood pressure, heart disease, and loneliness than those without a canine in their lives. A close relationship with a dog can provide you with years of protection, companionship, and unconditional love.
https://www.helpguide.org/pets/choosing-the-right-dog.htm(opens in a new tab)
While the rewards of owning a dog are probably greater than any other pet, they also come with a lot of responsibilities—and expenses. All dogs need daily outdoor exercise, regular medical check-ups, and a lot of attention from their owners. To make sure you find the perfect dog for you, there are a number of factors to consider:
What size dog fits your lifestyle? Even though it seems logical that a smaller dog would be happier than a larger one in an apartment without a yard, that isn’t necessarily true. All dogs do need daily exercise and outdoor activity, but some need more than others.
For example, oversized Newfoundlands actually prefer lounging around home and taking leisurely walks. And the tiniest of terriers can be extremely rambunctious and need lots of exercise and outdoor stimulation.
There’s no denying that puppies are adorable, but along with the cuteness comes added responsibility. Puppies require more time and attention for house training and behavior training, which may include patiently tolerating “accidents” and chewing phases. For these reasons, people who don’t have time for a puppy or prefer not to deal with training, often decide to adopt an older dog.
Additionally, small children or elderly adults in your family may not have the patience or ability to manage a puppy’s exuberance.
Another choice may be between a purebred or mixed breed. Some people prefer purebred dogs because they enjoy participating in dog shows, or are drawn to the “look” or characteristics of a particular breed.
Other people prefer mixed breed, “one-of-a-kind” dogs. Adopting a dog that needs a good home, whether it’s a puppy or mature dog, a purebred or a mixed breed, can be very rewarding. Some people say adopted dogs exhibit a special bond and appreciation for their owners.
Whichever type of dog you prefer, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider.
There are over 150 different types of purebred dogs, and an exponentially larger number of mixed breeds. You can narrow down your choices by realistically matching a dog’s “happiness factors” with your own. Hang around dog parks and talk to other dog owners. They can give you clues as to whether a certain type of dog will be happy with what you are able to provide.
[Read: The Health and Mood-Boosting Benefits of Pets]
Keep in mind that dogs were originally bred to serve specific functions. Kennel Clubs have divided dog breeds into seven different groups, based on those origins:
[Read: Health Benefits of Walks with Your Dog]
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, where do you find the dog of your dreams? Purebreds are usually obtained through breeders and breed specific rescue groups, although they can also be found at animal shelters. Mixed breeds are abundant at shelters and rescue groups.
Many of these retailers get their dogs from “puppy mills”, dog-breeding factories that treat the animals inhumanely. Over-breeding and overcrowding often lead to health and development problems in their puppies.
Responsible breeders want to meet their buyers in person to ensure that there is a good fit between the owner and the pet.
Source: Humane Society of the United States
You’ll have a very different experience when visiting each of the sources for your new dog.
Reputable breeders are the place to look for a purebred dog, as well as “designer” mixed breeds, such as Labradoodles (Labrador Retriever/Poodle mix).
Responsible breeders will encourage you to visit their facilities—often a home—to meet and interact with their dogs. Reputable breeders want to make sure that their animals are a good match with the people purchasing them and that they will be living in a healthy, loving environment. For ways to identify a reputable dog breeder and avoid those who exploit animals, see the Helpful links section below.
Rescue organizations literally rescue “homeless” dogs. Many come from animal shelters. Although some rescues have facilities where the animals are housed, most shelter their dogs temporarily in foster homes, at boarding facilities, or veterinary offices. In these places the animals are screened and observed for health and behavioral problems.
Rescues hold adoption events, usually on weekends, to give the public opportunities to meet available dogs. Many rescue groups have websites with photos and descriptions of their animals.
Animal shelters are funded and operated by a city, county, or a private organization (usually nonprofit). Shelters are a wonderful place to find an adult dog—and sometimes puppies are even available.
Visiting an animal shelter can be depressing, with so many dogs kept in less-than-ideal conditions and confined in cages because of budgetary constraints and overcrowding. Many of the animals, fearful and in shock, will not exhibit exuberant personalities. But shelters can be a treasure trove of unpolished gems. Usually time can be spent with dogs outside of their cages, giving them an opportunity to show you how much love they can give.
[Read: Best Friends: You and Your Dog]
Breeders, shelters, and rescue organizations usually let prospective owners meet and interact with available dogs. If possible, try to visit the dog a couple of times to best gauge a dog’s temperament before making a decision.
While dogs can be hard work, they are truly remarkable companions. Try to take a moment every day to notice the many ways in which your new friend has enriched your life.
Find your new best friend from a network of over 11,500 shelters and rescues. (Petfinder)
Find a pet from shelters, rescues, and individuals. (Adopt a pet)
Search RSPCA rehoming centres.
AdoptaPet (RSPCA Australia)
Use the worldwide shelter directory to search for animal shelters, animal rescue groups, and other animal sheltering facilities in your country. (Hugs Society)
Millions of readers rely on HelpGuide.org for free, evidence-based resources to understand and navigate mental health challenges. Please donate today to help us save, support, and change lives.Donate to HelpGuide.org today