Anyone who has spoken to me in the last two months know I became a proud parent to a pup. Since entering my life in April, Stella has been the main topic of my conversations, and rightfully so. She has brought me major happiness in a short period of time. Various studies support the idea that dogs can improve mental health overall.
It’s surprising just how much this eleven-pound bundle of fluff has changed my life for the better. Here are five ways becoming a parent to a dog has filled my world with bliss:
1. Unconditional Companionship
This is fairly obvious one but it is fundamental! The companionship dogs give humans can provide a lot of happiness, and the relationship between dogs and their owners can be strong and special. Dogs are known as man’s best friend, after all.
Living alone in New York City can be a pretty lonely experience. Getting a dog helped me feel less alone, even if she primarily communicates in barks, tail wags, and licks. She quickly bonded with me and now she tends to follow me around the apartment. Stella is sitting on the couch next to me as I write this sentence.
The best part is that I know she is always thrilled to see me when I come home. She’s never mad at me for leaving her, all she cares about is that I’m with her now. If only humans could be so forgiving!
2. More Responsibilities
Some may argue that having more responsibilities is a bad thing, but the duties that come with dog parenting have actually been good for me. Since getting Stella, I’ve been waking up a bit earlier than I normally would. My schedule is set around her feeding times and walks, and we’ve developed a solid routine.
Waking up earlier has increased my productivity (after that first walk, I try to jump into another task), and having a schedule again has also helped me find a comfortable groove (I’m a freelancer, so my work schedule tends to vary.) The more productive and scheduled I am, the better mood I’m in.
I also get to see how doing things for her makes her happy, which in turn makes me even happier. She gets so excited every time the dog bowl is at her feet, and every walk is an adventure to her. Sure, I don’t always want to wake up at the crack of dawn for that first walk of the day, but getting up for her is worth it!
3. Increased Physical Contact
With companionship comes a familial closeness. While not all dogs are interested in being touched by humans, many do enjoy some form of physical affection like pats, scratches, and belly rubs. This definitely depends on the dog, so always ask an owner before touching a dog that is not yours and take time to discover what forms of contact your dog likes.
Let’s be real: your dog’s decision to lick your face is not an expression of love (this tends to actually mean they want food.) It sure can feel like love to humans though! Making physical contact with pets can bring us joy.
I lucked out with my little fluff. She loves belly rubs, head scratches, licking my feet, and occasionally snuggling with me for a nap. All of our forms of physical contact make me pretty happy. I can’t help but love her a little more whenever she puts her little head on my thigh.
4. Increased Physical Activity
The added responsibilities of owning a dog can really increase your physical activity. Regular walks get you closer to hitting that 10,000 step goal. Throwing balls and frisbees can increase your heart rate as well. My dad fully works out whenever he is playing with our active Australian shepherd.
Of course the amount of exercise you’ll do depends on your living situation and the type of dog you have. People with adequate yards do not have to go on walks as often, an some dogs don’t require much exercise. I think it’s safe to say that your physical activity generally increases from owning a pet though, so let the endorphins flow!
Stella is pretty tiny so she doesn’t need to exercise a ton, but the steps from our walks definitely add up and the occasional tug-of-war doesn’t hurt either.
5. More Socialization
Many dogs are social creatures, and owning a dog can make socializing a more regular part of your life. Walks, visits to the dog park, and other dog activities can all lead to meeting and communicating with new people.
Almost every time I take Stella for a walk, someone will come up to us to say hi and ask what breed she is. These encounters have led to quick chats, deep conversations, budding friendships, and even exchanged phone numbers. I’m pretty sure I’ve interacted with more strangers in these last two months than I have my entire two years living in New York City and I have a little puppy to thank for that. The increased socialization can add little moments of happiness to my day.
Dogs can truly be a great conversation starter. If striking up conversations makes you feel uncomfortable, bring your dog to a public environment they are comfortable in and let them be the center of attention when people approach you. Fur babies tend to steal the spotlight in the best way.
How has your dog or pet brought you joy? Share in the comments below.