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Every morning I take our dogs, Athos and Aramis out for their morning walk. I’ve often thought of how having the dogs helps keep me moving every day.

It is fairly well known that having a dog triggers more movement and exercise in your life. I set myself to take them to the beach for a swim or decent runs every week. There is a number of studies citing the health benefits of looking after a dog. Even if the weather is poor, a good owner has a commitment to their dogs to get up, get out and get moving every single day, twice a day without fail. This commitment means that the motivation to get out and exercise is far higher which increases the consistency and thus overall health. 

However, having recently adopted Porthos, our 2-month-old mongrel rescue, meant we now have the 3 musketeers. But completing the name set isn’t the only thing that Porthos has brought into our home. As I am currently developing our coaching system at the same time as caring for the little one, I have had the realisation that there are far more benefits to dog ownership than simply getting out and walking them. 

One of the tools used to create and maintain a balanced lifestyle is the 4 pillars of balance: Psychological, Physical, Practical and Personal aspects. These 4 pillars must be developed in order to gain balanced lifestyle we all desire. Although keeping and caring for a dog does not develop all of these to the point where no more work is required to have a truly successful balanced life, it does help develop these pillars as it encompasses portions of each. 

Looking after a dog triggers a real psychological feeling of accountability to the wellbeing of the newest member of your family. A responsible dog owner will start researching and learning more on the care and training of dogs, triggering your outlook to learning, developing your own knowledge and increasing your level of patience (especially during house training). This, along with the understanding that looking after yourself means that you are better equipped to look after others, not only improves your own life view and the care of your dog, but also your ability to be a better partner, parent and friend to those around you.

Having pets in the house also has a huge psychological benefit with regards to stress relief, gratitude and patience. Having that unconditional love that dogs gives the minute you come back from work releases a wave of dopamine in your brain. This in turn helps in the regulation of your brain chemistry, stress levels and general mood. The more time you spend petting and caring for your canine companion, the more calm and self reflection of the positives in your own life you will experience. 

As previously mentioned, we are physically improved by the regular walking and running required to keep a dog healthy and happy. This coupled with the overall improved happiness we highlighted above also help to reduce blood pressure. A new epidemiology study found that that the responsibilities, increased happiness and increased walking and movement that come with owning a dog actually decrease the risk of cardiovascular early death by 36%.

Studies have also shown that living with dogs actually increases your own immune system. A research team at the University of Arizona has found a link between bacteria found in dog owners home and our health. The connection surrounds something known as the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which suggests our modern day obsession with cleanliness has left our bodies incapable of reacting appropriately to certain bacteria, not only leaving us open to attacks from bad bacteria but also leaves our immune systems hyperactive to harmless substances like pollen, and results in allergies. Effectively, living with a dog works like a probiotic, helping you to develop healthy bacteria colonies that boosts your immune system, reducing your chances of getting ill and potentially, reducing your sensitivities to allergies.

Practically, the structure of your day has to change when you have a dog. Having a puppy, you must set aside time during your day for training. And from there on out, you have feeding times, walk times and play times that should be scheduled each day to ensure your dog is the happiest and healthiest it can be. This forces you to become more efficient in your own time management so you can look after your dog properly as well as getting everything else in life done. Many dog owners find that they actually have a fuller and more content lifestyle while with a dog due to this fact. 

Your personal environment changes with the introduction of a dog as well. Provided there is nobody with a fear of dogs which has not been overcome, the same de-stressing and calming impact your dog has on you will also impact the rest of the family and your visitors. This calms the whole social environment of a house hold and for you, any meeting with your dog present breeds a far more supportive and loving atmosphere to all.

As great as all of these canine driven benefits seem, there is an important requirement to receiving them. Responsible and kind ownership of the dog - simply getting a dog and having them in the house, uncared for, unhappy and untrained will not give you all of these that come with owning a dog. Keeping a dog is a big responsibility; it should not be taken lightly. However, looking after the life of a canine companion can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. For me, it certainly is.

For anyone considering a dog I would strongly advise rescuing one through adoption. This gives the added benefit of saving a life that truly needs your help. There are many organisations with many wonderful dogs looking for a lovely home.

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