6 reasons you should definitely have a dog for your emotional well-being

I’ve never considered myself a dog person, so I’m not quite sure how I ended up with a 3-pound Havachon puppy two weeks ago. Nevertheless I am now a dog owner and I’m not afraid to admit that I have unexpectedly become one of those dog lovers who thinks nothing of letting my puppy kiss me on the lips.

Despite my aversion to that wet dog smell, poop on the rug and licked furniture all over the house, I have to admit that I have fallen madly in love with this adorable, furry, cuddly, fun little pup, who showers me with kisses several times daily and who happens to by laying on my lap as I write this column.

My new four-legged friend named Jackson got me thinking, is a dog really man’s best friend? What are the emotional benefits of having a furry friend? (And I’m not talking about a boyfriend who has a lot of body hair!) What does a dog’s love give us? What does it do for single people? And how does having a dog impact families?

For answers to these questions, I reached out to Lisa Kaplin, a North Shore-based psychologist and life coach, who also happens to be a dog owner. Kaplin said so many of her clients – particularly those who are going through a divorce or becoming empty nesters have asked her, “What do you think about me getting a dog?”

“I tell them, ‘Don’t get a pet to fill a need. Get one because you want a mutual relationship,'” said Kaplin, who with her husband and kids got their goldendoodle Ginger 10 years ago. “You have to be there for the dog as much as the dog is there for you.”

Kaplin, who has been a life coach for six years and a psychologist for 17, said the wrong reason for getting a dog is because you think the dog will fix your life problems, and that you won’t be sad and lonely anymore. The right reason: because you might enjoy the companionship and the emotional investment that an animal requires.

So, what does Fido bring to the table? Kaplin and I came up with a few things:

1. Humor and energy

A dog brings out the playful side of everyone. We’re all so busy and serious and stressed, and dogs help us forget about things for a little while. They do things that make you laugh out loud, that make you giggle and smile and that make you feel warm and youthful and lighthearted.

2. No judgment

The dog loves everybody. He or she doesn’t take sides. When things in the family get rough, the dog is there to support everybody. Your furry guy is a neutral party.

3. Lessons

A dog can teach us how to care for the animal, and how to be sensitive to and aware of the needs and feelings of others. A pet can also teach us how to take responsibility for him or her. This is especially important for kids, who are experiencing the discipline needed to feed, walk and even play with the dog.

4. Calmness

Although to me it sounds a little ironic, (since I’ve spent the past 14 days trying to house train my puppy) Kaplin said she personally gets a sense of calm when spending time with her dog. She also said having a dog can help a child to overcome his or her fear of animals.

5. Unconditional love

Here you are with someone in the world who loves you no matter what. A dog doesn’t love you because of the way you look or what you can do for him or her. A dog’s love is just simple love. You walk in the door and the dog is happy to see you.

6. Drama-free love

That’s what I call it. Kaplin calls it “uncomplicated love. You’re never going to have an argument with your dog and you never have to worry about what he or she is thinking, that you might have said something wrong or that the dog has an issue with you. A dog loves you. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.

I won’t lie and say that having a puppy is easy. In fact, I just had to take a break from writing this so I could clean up his accident. Second time today! But Jackson is worth it!

People say getting a puppy is like having a baby. No offense to pet owners who have never had kids, but I totally disagree. Granted, he is a baby – dependent on us for everything and crazy with excitement when we walk in the door. But what I see happening is that we are getting this gift of tremendous warmth and love in our home, and we aren’t having to get up and feed and change him every three hours! Don’t get me wrong, I loved having babies, but having a dog feels more like a new friend who just came to live with us, who doesn’t want much – just food, water, playtime, love and a tummy rub every now and again. It’s pretty doggone sweet.

By Jackie PilossophPioneer Press
Jackie Pilossoph is a freelance columnist for Chicago Tribune Media Group. She is also the creator of her divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph lives in Chicago with her two children.

Original article at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/lake-zurich/lifestyles/ct-ppn-column-love-essentially


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