By Laura Greene
There are an estimated 45,000 dogs on Maui – meaning that 60 per cent of the island’s households have at least one canine occupant. With their tail-wagging enthusiasm, constant companionship and undivided loyalty, it’s easy to see why lots of us love them. But can dogs be good for your health?
“Yes. I wholeheartedly think that they can.” said Jocelyn Bouchard, Maui Humane Society’s CEO. “I think dogs have many benefits for people of all ages – that’s one of the reasons I do what I do.
“They have many powerful capabilities in terms of healing and in health and wellness and they can really have a positive effect on your life. Your dog loves you unconditionally and I love to just hang out with my three dogs after work. They’re always excited to see you and always have a positive outlook. What more could anyone want?”
Dog owner, Carlee Sutherland of Kahana agrees. “I’ve had dogs all my life and I can’t imagine it any other way. If you’ve had a bad day it’s great to see that friendly face when you come home and even doing the simplest of things, like throwing a ball at the beach, can give you a lift.”
Studies have indicated that owning a dog can benefit your life in many ways, we’ve looked into a few ways that having a four-legged friend can help your health:
Going out for a walk on your own may not always be appealing but taking your dog for a walk is fun! Walking with your dog can help you to relax and even stroking and patting a pet can help to reduce stress. Simply looking at animals can reduce tension, says the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland. Reducing stress is one effective way of reducing high blood pressure.
Having a canine buddy can definitely help you to meet people, as anyone who has ever got a date when walking their dog will know. Whether it’s walks on the beach, dog training classes or even shopping in a pet store, dogs facilitate social interaction which can ward off loneliness and feelings of low self esteem.
If you are a considerate dog owner and take your dog for lots of walks you will both reap the benefits of the exercise. Studies have shown that 34% of dog owners are likely to get the recommended amount of exercise per week – thanks to their pets. All the walking will help to reduce the risk of getting overweight which, in turn, will help to fight obesity and the risk of heart disease.
Dogs can not only fight next-door’s cat but they can fight depression too. According to researchers, dog owners experience a surge in oxytocin after playing with their dogs. Oxytocin is a hormone, often nicknamed the “cuddle chemical” for the positive, warm feelings it produces and because it reduces stress.
Responsible and allergy-free kids
Encouraging your children to take on some of the tasks of feeding, walking or grooming your dog can give them a great sense of responsibility and can help them to experience nurturing and social skills. Studies also show that exposing your kids to allergens often contained in pet fur can help their immune systems – making them less likely to develop allergies and asthma.
Often considered as members of the family, loving your dog is good for your heart. As well as the benefits exercise will give to your heart, studies have shown that the survival rates of dog-owning heart attack sufferers far outstrip those of non-dog owners.
In the last year the Maui Humane Society has tried to help 2,862 dogs to find a new home, which is a 21 per cent increase from the previous year. For more information about the Maui Humane Society, please visit their website here.