Dog owners who take their canine companions on walks tend to be trimmer and fitter than their fellow dog-less peers. When stress comes your way, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, releasing hormones like cortisol to crank out more energy-boosting blood sugar and epinephrine to get your heart and blood pumping. All well and good for our ancestors who needed quick bursts of speed to dodge predatory saber-toothed tigers and stampeding mastodons.
But when we live in a constant state of fight-or-flight from ongoing stress at work and the frenetic pace of modern life, these physical changes take their toll on our bodies, including raising our risk of heart disease and other dangerous conditions. Contact with pets seem to counteract this stress response by lowering stress hormones and heart rate. They also lower anxiety and fear levels psychological responses to stress and elevate feelings of calmness.
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Studies have found that dogs can help ease stress and loneliness for seniors , as well as help calm pre-exam stress for college students. One study found that just 10 minutes of petting a dog or cat can lower cortisol levels in college students. Pets shower us with love so it's not surprising they have a big impact on our love organ: the heart. Turns out time spent with a cherished critter is linked to better cardiovascular health, possibly due to the stress-busting effect mentioned above. Studies show that dog owners have a lower risk of heart disease , including lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Dogs also benefit patients who already have cardiovascular disease. They're not only four time more likely to be alive after a year if they own a dog, but they're also more likely to survive a heart attack. And don't worry, cat owners — feline affection confers a similar effect.
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Another new study that followed more than 1, people in the Czech Republic found that dog owners are more likely to have better overall heart health. Pet owners in the study reported more physical activity, better diet and ideal blood sugar levels, but dog owners showed the greatest benefits from having a pet.
Four-legged companions particularly the canine variety that pull us out of the house for daily walks help us make more friends and appear more approachable, trustworthy and date-worthy. In one study, people in wheelchairs who had a dog received more smiles and had more conversations with passersby than those without a dog.
In another study, college students who were asked to watch videos of two psychotherapists depicted once with a dog and once without said they felt more positively toward them when they had a dog and more likely to disclose personal information. And good news for guys: research shows that women are more willing to give out their number to men with a canine buddy. A dog can make you appear friendlier and more approachable to others. Just as non-human pals strengthen our social skills and connection, cats and dogs also offer furry, friendly comfort and social bonding to people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of brain-destroying dementia.
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Several canine caregiver programs now exist to assist at-home dementia patients with day-to-day tasks, such as fetching medication, reminding them to eat and guiding them home if they've wandered off course. Many assisted-living facilities also keep resident pets or offer therapy animal visits to support and stimulate patients. Studies show creature companions can reduce behavioral issues among dementia patients by boosting their moods and raising their nutritional intake. One in nearly 70 American kids has autism also known as autism spectrum disorder, or ASD , a developmental disability that makes it tough to communicate and interact socially.
Not surprisingly, animals can also help these kids connect better to others. One study found that youngsters with ASD talked and laughed more, whined and cried less and were more social with peers when guinea pigs were present. A multitude of ASD animal-assisted therapy programs have sprung up in recent years, featuring everything from dogs and dolphins to alpacas, horses and even chickens. Animal-assisted therapy helps kids with autism and other developmental disabilities learn social skills.
Pets keep loneliness and isolation at bay and make us smile. In other words, their creature camaraderie and ability to keep us engaged in daily life via endearing demands for food, attention and walks are good recipes for warding off the blues. Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold.
Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off.
If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat. Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection.
Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily. See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers aka pit bulls.
Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids , and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances.
Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period. Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive.
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However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all.
If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards. Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department. Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily.
As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time. Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating but some of them are incredibly sweet!
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Take a look and find the right large dog for you! Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt such as the word "sit" , an action sitting , and a consequence getting a treat very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me? Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies.
If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue. Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin. Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people.
Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats. Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by — cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars — can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs.
Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by. Some breeds sound off more often than others.
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When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions?
Do you have neighbors nearby? Some breeds are more free-spirited than others.
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