Sharing our lives with dogs is a wonderful privilege. They're playful, intelligent, and loving creatures who brighten our days and offer us lasting companionship.

Dogs really are true heroes. They inspire awe with their selfless actions and astonishing loyalty. And with their gentle, giving natures they have the power to improve our lives in numerous ways.

In our first blog post of 2020, we'll celebrate our canine companions by sharing 5 inspiring ways that dogs are true heroes.

1) They Help Keep Us Mentally and Physically Healthy

Studies have shown that dogs help reduce depression, loneliness, stress, and anxiety. They also provide their owners with companionship and social support. One of the reasons for this is that dogs have a relaxing effect on humans. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that interacting with dogs increases oxytocin, the "love hormone" and decreases cortisol, the "stress hormone."

Owning a dog is also a great way to stay fit and healthy. A study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog owners are more likely to get a healthy amount of exercise than those who don't own dogs. Wondering just how much exercise dog owners get compared to their non-dog-owning counterparts? A 2019 study from the University of Liverpool found that dog owners spend almost 300 minutes each week walking with their dogs. That's a massive 200 more minutes of walking than people without dogs!

Want more information about how dogs can improve our mental and physical health? Check out our previous post, 5 Amazing Ways Your Dog Can Improve Your Health.

2) They Can Detect Disease in Humans

Did you know that dogs have been trained to detect a dozen different human diseases? These include diabetes, prostate cancer, and most recently, malaria. This uncanny ability to detect disease is all down to a dog's sense of smell. According to an article from PetMD, dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than humans. The same article offers the following analogy to demonstrate just how amazing a dog's sense of smell is: "It is so sensitive that [dogs can] detect the equivalent of a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool."

Currently, scientists are investigating dogs' remarkable sense of smell to find out if our canine companions can help detect other illnesses. So, don't be surprised if you read more about dogs detecting a wide range of diseases in the not too distant future.

Dogs are heroes

3) They Help People With Disabilities

Specially trained service dogs provide invaluable support to people with disabilities. Guide dogs are perhaps the most well known of all service dogs. They are trained to help blind and visually impaired people perform daily tasks and get around safely.

Other types of service dogs for people with disabilities include hearing dogs, autism service dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and seizure response dogs. These service dogs perform vital tasks that allow their owners to gain independence. They are also trained to prevent dangerous situations and provide assistance in the case of a medical emergency.

4) They Help in the Aftermath of Disasters

Dogs can play a vital role in the devastating aftermath of disasters. Search and rescue dogs use their amazing noses to detect human scent. This allows them to guide emergency response teams to people trapped under debris or in areas where they can't be seen. Thanks to the assistance of these courageous service dogs, many survivors are successfully located and rescued.

Disaster relief dogs are specially trained to provide emotional support following disasters. According to an article from Rover.com, "[disaster relief dogs] gained recognition after the events of September 11, 2001, when they played an important role in helping survivors heal. In recent years, disaster relief dogs have comforted victims of shootings, mudslides, and hurricanes."

5) They Assist People With PTSD

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop as a result of a traumatic experience. This is why it's often diagnosed in military personnel who've been traumatized by war. Dogs can be a great comfort to people with PTSD because they love them unconditionally. This can elevate oxytocin levels in the body, helping emotional scars to heal. 

Dogs also help protect people suffering from PTSD and provide them with a sense of companionship. This helps them deal with distressing symptoms such as paranoia, emotional numbness, flashbacks, and frightening nightmares. In fact, owning a dog can actually help relieve stress and lessen symptoms of PTSD in those who suffer from the disorder.

We hope you enjoyed today's post, and we're sure you'll agree that dogs really are true heroes. Is your dog a hero? We'd love to hear about it! Why not head on over to our Facebook page and share your story?

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