Let’s face it – in this day and age, we don’t have a lot of face time with our local community anymore. This comes from a variety of reasons from more screen time, longer work commutes, or more families who live further apart. Most of us don’t really know our neighbors, and if we’re honest – don’t really want to make an effort to.
But there’s something very special about the belonging feeling of “home” and the benefits that participating in our local community has in our country and the planet as a whole. Pushing ourselves to participate in our small communities can help us all become happier and healthier. This is where our furry friends can help you as much as you help them!
Dogs force you outside of your comfort zone
Whatever mood you’re in that day, a dog’s gotta go when they’ve gotta go. Twice daily walks, one of which should be to your nearest park force you to interact with people who live within a few-mile radius. Whether it’s a simple “hello” as they pass by or a quick conversation on a park bench, we’ll eventually start to recognize (and be recognized by) others in our own community. These simple interactions (yes, even those of us who are not very social) can make us feel like we exist and they build strong shared connections. They help us get outside, get moving, and are known to decrease depression and anxiety. Plus, it’s great for your dogs too – they need social interaction with other dogs just as much as you do!
They love a good adventure
Take your dogs to every local farmer’s market, every restaurant with an outdoor patio, and on every fun, outdoorsy trek. If we stay close to home (anywhere you can walk to) we’ll end up meeting a lot of people along the way. When we support local businesses, we’re supporting our local schools, parks, and most importantly – our neighbors. Having a dog is a great motivator to get moving and gives us a reason to be in public (especially for those of us who feel a little uncomfortable if we’re out alone).
They’re a great conversation starter
No one can resist the urge to smile when they see a dog on the street or stopping to say hello to a puppy. Dogs are the ultimate ice breaker and a very easy way to help start a conversation with a stranger – especially another dog owner. You may all get to know each other’s pet’s names and their behaviors – whether they’re a scared rescue or a hyper puppy. These healthy habits can break up our day in a positive way, encouraging interaction and building trust between us and the people we see every day. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make a few great friends you otherwise would never have met!
Dogs help us find more interesting activities
Some of us get so swept up with work or family, that we don’t take the time to explore all of the activities that are out there! Your community probably has an online board or social media group where they post about fall festivals, Christmas markets, local sports leagues, new businesses opening, weekend meetups, and more. Many of these events are great places to bring a dog, whether alone or with friends or family. If you’ve never seen how excited your pup gets while sliding on a frozen pond, or finding a broken pumpkin at a pumpkin patch, I highly recommend it.
So make the first step and reach out to your local shelter – and who knows, maybe they’ll have the right (furry) key to help you open the door to your community.