Health & Wellness Articles

The Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

How Animals Boost Health & Happiness

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I grew up in a garden apartment development in New York, quite different from the suburban home my children know. There were tons of other kids around, my best friend lived downstairs, and we walked or rode bikes everywhere. I was never envious of my friends and cousins who lived in private homes, except for one thing: Most of them had dogs, and I could not. They were not permitted in our development.
As a kid, I longed for a puppy. My folks promised that if we moved, I could get a dog. I left for college from that same apartment and still go back to visit my folks there to this day.
When my daughter turned seven, she began begging us for a dog. I could empathize with her longing, as I felt the same way when I was a little girl. Living in a house with a backyard, I saw no reason why my kids shouldn’t grow up with a pet. And of course, I could finally fulfill my childhood dream of having a dog of my own. We got Emmie, a beautiful golden retriever, who filled our home and hearts with love for 13 years.
Little did I know that bringing a puppy into our house was a positive step toward keeping my family not just happy but healthy. At that point I was totally unaware of the health benefits of owning a pet. I just knew it would add joy to our lives. 
The world of positive psychology has taught us that happier people are healthier. It seems moods such as happiness, optimism and playfulness all improve our immune system. Playfulness just comes along with the territory when you bring a puppy, kitten—or any pet, really—into your home. 
Emotional Health
When it comes to the emotional benefits of owning a pet, there are many. Pet owners report decreased stress and anxiety, depression and loneliness.  Behavioral psychologists tell us that human connection is one of our most basic needs. We all seem happiest when we interact with others. Taking care of a pet, attending to their needs and enjoying the companionship intensifies our feelings of being connected, in similar ways to that of human connection. 
To that end, owning a pet increases our human connections as well, because it increases our opportunities for socialization. For instance, I work from a home office, and I speak with most of my clients by phone. At times it can be quite isolating. A few years after Emmie left us, Ozzy the Labradoodle joined our family. He lies quietly by my feet while I work at my desk and is my playmate when I take a time out from work.
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

Member Comments

  • Walking with my 4-legged fur baby a Borador (Lab/Border Collie) reminds me to be thankful as she romps, delighting over each and everything along the way. Her pure joy lifts me from myself and everyday modern life. Her happiness is contagious. - 7/4/2015 3:46:28 PM
  • This article is so true! We just lost our 15 year old dog and miss him very much. We found him at an animal shelter and never knew exactly what combination of breeds he was, but he was perfect for us!
    In those 15 years he helped me garden, went for walks, snowshoe hikes and skiing with us. He let our grandchildren cuddle him and he chased bears away. He watched over us and we took care of him. When we acquired kittens, he let them climb up his long legs and was there friend from the start. What a dog!! - 7/4/2015 12:39:29 PM
  • I don't know what I'd do without mine. I grew up with dogs, but have been owned by at least 1 cat since I graduated from college, almost 30 years ago. (I now have 3!) No human children, just furry ones. My "kids" have saved me thousands of dollars that would probably have been spent on therapy over the years. There's just something about being around them that is so soothing and calming, not to mention they are tremendously entertaining!

    Thank you, SP, for this great article! - 7/4/2015 9:49:22 AM
  • Years ago, one of my friends told me that her neighbor's black lab would "sense" when she was in a low blood sugar phase (she's diabetic), and would bark and wake her up. She was just convinced it sensed when she was in trouble, because when her blood sugars were normal and she was just asleep, he didn't bark. She lived in a tiny trailer and really couldn't afford dog food so that's why she didn't have a dog or cat of her own. But she had her own love for the neighbor's big dog!! - 7/1/2015 11:02:14 PM
  • When my husband finally made good on his promise of getting me a dog, he had no idea of how it would benefit him too. I of course loved her from the start, such a sweet face, sweet disposition, and lovable little white ball of fur.

    My husband grew to love her but they became even closer when he was out of work for 4 months due to surgery on both ankles. He told me that she kept him going, and kept him sane and in good spirits, just by being there.

    Although she sleeps in her crate, or her "room" as we call it, at night, when my husbands sleeps during the day,( he works nights) she is on a blanket beside the bed, that way she isn't alone and cooped up.

    Recently I had a mild Heart Attack and was in the Hospital for a few days, as I was being treated in the E room, I made sure my husband went home to take care of the dog, and made sure he fed her and took her out before coming back to the Hospital later that evening. ( I had to be transferred to another local hospital that night and had called him to let him know. He wanted to come right away but I told him to feed and take her out. I was in good hands but she needed him to care for her needs BEFORE coming to see me)

    The few days I was in the Hospital he missed me and he told me that the dog would see him come in and she'd look for me. When I did come home I got jumped on,( not bad because she is a small 20lb dog, and I was followed,( like glue), for several days.

    She is our furry baby, and at almost 11 years old she was the best gift my husband ever gave me. (She was a Valentine's day gift back in 2005) - 6/30/2015 10:47:33 AM

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