During the month of August, National Dog Month celebrates our favorite canine pals smack in the middle of the dog days of summer. Dogs are the number one most commonly owned pets on the planet. Did you know that scientific studies prove our pawsome companions make us happier, less stressed, and more optimistic? The list of benefits to spending time with a dog goes on and on, but it all proves one thing––that a month-long celebration of our furry best friends has been a long time coming.
A new study from Johns Hopkins suggests that having a dog before the age of 3 may lessen the chance of developing schizophrenia as an adult. Their results found that being around a pet dog as a young child was linked to as much as a 24 percent decrease in the likelihood of being later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Therapy dogs are dogs who go with their owners to volunteer in such places as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. From working with a child who is learning to read to visiting a senior in assisted living, therapy dogs and their owners work as a team to improve the lives of other people. Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are dogs who are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability. An example of a service dog is a dog who guides an owner who is blind, or a dog who assists someone who has a physical disability. Service dogs stay with their person and have special access privileges in public places such as on planes, restaurants, etc.
Whether your dog burrows under the blankets with you at night, plays in the sprinkler, or alerts you to a health need, we know they are constantly improving our lives and making them more fun. Not only that but the companionship and affection we share with them make their lives better, too. Dog lovers know a life without dogs is a life missing something special, and that’s a fact worth celebrating.
Here are some activities you can do with your dog to improve both their health and yours:
Take your dog on a long walk in nature where they can be at ease and connect with it. Walking a local trail or along the beach reduces stress and improves mood for both of you.
Daily playtime is just as important as daily walks. You don’t need to play with them for hours, just twice a day for 10-15 minutes when you get home from work or school and in the morning if you have time. So dust off a tennis ball or toss a frisbee and move with your dog.
Does your dog love to play with their dog friends? If they do, consider scheduling a meet-up with their friends and have a doggy playdate. It could be lots of fun for the dogs and you can also hang out with their owners, make friends and enjoy socializing.
Help a shelter
Many dogs don’t have a home with a loving family. Even if you don’t have a dog, you can donate to your local shelter or volunteer to walk the dogs or spend time with them. They also deserve love and affection, most of them have been abandoned or hurt so they may fear people. They need to be shown that there are humans who will care for them and keep them safe.
Volunteer together. Share the love you feel by visiting a nursing home or hospital via a visiting dog program. Your dog will be showered with affection and feel useful—and you’ll both feel great.
Say nice things. Researcher Gregory Burns has been working with MRIs to figure out what parts of a dog’s brain lights up, based on food or rewards. His work showed that dogs responded the same to hot dogs and praise—here we thought they were all about the kibble!—and 20 percent of dogs actually responded more favorably to praise alone. So talk Fido up; he’ll love it and you’ll enjoy the positive loop, too.
The library has all kinds of books and DVDs relating to our furry friends, come on by and we’ll help you find a fun read or an interesting movie.