Whether you already have a dog or you’re thinking of getting one, it’s important to think about how owning a dog affects both you and the animal. Having a dog in your family should mean there’s a mutually-beneficial relationship where you help each other. You take care of your dog and your dog, although he might not know it, helps to improve your quality of life too. You and your dog can be there for each other in a variety of ways, even though it mostly involves you putting in the effort and your dog just being, well, a dog. If you’re not convinced that you both get as much from your relationship as each other, here’s how you and your dog can enjoy each other’s company. Your Dog Gives You Something to Get Up For It’s not always easy to get up in the morning, even for people who are generally happy and motivated. Sometimes you just want to laze around in bed, or you don’t feel like facing the day. But having a dog to care for means you can’t waste your day lying around. Your dog needs feeding, walking, and playing with. That’s part of the reason dogs are sometimes recommended for people with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. They give people something to care for and care about outside of themselves. Not only is your dog a reason to get out of bed, but they’ll be sure to get you up if you’re late giving them breakfast.

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  Your Dog Sees You As Pack Leader When you bring a dog into your family, you’re their pack leader. They look to you for their commands as the alpha – although they might see one family member as more authoritative than the others. It’s comforting for them to have companions, whether they’re all humans, other dogs, or maybe even other animals. They physically need you to survive too, relying on you for everything from food and exercise to staying clean. You might need your dog, but you know that they need you too.   You Keep Each Other Fit One of the great benefits of owning a dog is that they can help to keep you fit. But it’s also your job to help keep your dog fit and healthy. You can look at it as having a faithful workout partner who’s always there to encourage you to go to the gym. Whatever you choose to do with your dog, from gentle walks to mountain hikes, they encourage you to get outside. You can also do some fun activities that are a bit more active for your dog than you, like agility or flyball.   Affection Is Good For Both of You There’s nothing like a cuddle with your dog. Sometimes they seem to sense when you’re sad and come and give you affection when you need it most. It’s not just good for you, though. It’s also good for them to get affection from their human. Giving your dog affection is a way to reward them for good behavior, especially because they’re naturally very affectionate and love to receive attention from humans and each other. It’s important to give your dog affection at the right time, though. For example, if you fuss over them when they’re really excited, you could teach them that it’s ok to jump up at people when you don’t want them to.

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  You Can Support Each Other Emotionally Sharing affection with your dog is great for lifting your mood. And for some people, it’s even useful to have their dog designated as an emotional support animal (ESA). An ESA isn’t the same as a service dog, which has different legal protections and needs to have specialized training. However, an ESA may have some protections in some situations, such as when you’re applying for housing. If you think it would be beneficial to have your dog designated as an ESA or for you to get an emotional support animal, you can read about how to do it here. You need to have a licensed mental health professional write you a letter that says you will benefit from having an emotional support animal. ESAs can help with a range of health conditions, from PTSD to anxiety and depression.   Some Dogs Help with Physical Conditions Too Dogs can also be trained to provide assistance for a range of physical conditions. These dogs are more likely to be service dogs, which legally are required to have special training. They should be trained to perform certain tasks that help their owners, who might have physical or mental health disabilities. The most recognizable type of service dog is probably seeing-eye dogs for blind and sight-impaired people. There are also hearing dogs, dogs that detect seizures or provide assistance to people with diabetes, mobility assistance dogs, and more. Service dogs don’t need to be certified or registered, but business owners and service providers are allowed to ask what tasks they’re trained to do to determine if they can provide reasonable accommodation for them.

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  Dogs Are Protective Having a loyal companion who will protect you is one of the reasons that some people choose to get a dog. Dogs will protect you in a variety of ways, including standing between you and a perceived threat or barking. A protective dog isn’t necessarily aggressive, though. It could just mean they stand at your side and are there for you. Some people choose dog breeds based on which ones make the best guard dogs. However, you don’t have to pick a particularly large or protective dog to have one who will stand up for you. A dog’s protective instinct isn’t just good for you, either. It makes them feel useful and proud that they’re protecting you. Just be careful not to encourage bad behaviors.   You Can Be Social Together Do you feel like you need to get out of your shell a little? If you want to meet new people, having a dog is a great way to do it. Your dog can take you to new places, and you can find plenty of opportunities for your pooch to socialize too. You might go to your local dog park and talk to other owners while your dog meets some fellow four-legged friends. There are also some fun classes and activities you can do together, where you can meet other people are dogs. Some activities are more focused on dogs, while others are for people but within a dog-friendly atmosphere. For example, you could attend an agility class with your dog, or you could join a walking group and take your dog with you on walks. Not only will you make new friends, but your dog will improve his social skills too.   Take Your Dog to Work Lucky enough to be the boss or work in a dog-friendly environment? Taking your dog to work could be good for both of you. It means your dog doesn’t have to stay home or go to doggy daycare, and you can have your constant companion with you all day. Dogs can be great in a few different work environments but generally are best in offices, as long as they’re happy to sit under your desk for most of the day. You might also be able to take your dog to work if you work outdoors. And if you are able to take your dog to work with you, not only can they help you to relieve stress (and relieve your dog’s stress), but they can be there for your colleagues too. Your dog will probably love the extra attention and might have some other dogs to make friends with too.   Be Charitable with Your Dog If your dog provides great emotional support to you, they could do the same for others too. Your dog might be able to train as a therapy dog so you can visit people who can benefit from the comfort of a furry friend. Therapy dogs visit places like schools, hospitals and care homes to befriend the people there. Petting a dog is excellent therapy and can lift people’s moods. Dogs can even help people to recover from illness faster. If you want to volunteer with your dog, there are other things you can do too. Your dog can donate blood, you could go on charity runs or walks together, or you could foster other dogs for your dog to interact with and care for.   Adopt, Don’t Shop There are lots of terribly cute pedigree puppy litters out there. It’s easy to see what people are prepared to pay money for them. But choosing to adopt a dog instead is good for both you and the dog. You get all the benefits of owning a dog and the knowledge that you saved a dog in need. Without people to adopt them, a lot of dogs end up being put down. Adopting a dog often means you rescue each other.   Owning a dog isn’t just a one-sided relationship. They get just as much out of it as you do, and you can have so much fun together.

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