A 2023 survey by the American Pet Products Association found that 65% of households in the United States include a dog, and 85% of those respondents consider their dogs a member of the family.
And it’s easy to see why, says Nancy R. Gee, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Dogs are amazingly adept at reading human social cues, such as body language and emotional states,” Gee says. “Dogs, unlike any other companion animal species, are extremely well suited to helping humans in so many ways, many of which we still don’t fully understand.”
Gee, who co-authored the research study “Dogs Supporting Human Health and Well-Being: A Biopsychosocial Approach” and co-edited the book “The Role of Companion Animals in the Treatment of Mental Disorders,” says the stresses of the pandemic lockdown spotlighted our desire for canine companionship.
“Dogs and humans are both social creatures,” she explains. “When humans were forced into social isolation by the pandemic lockdown, we sought out much-needed social connection, and dogs were an obvious choice. We were lonely, and dogs came to our rescue!”
If you are (or plan to be) a dog parent, National Dog Day is the perfect time to honor the special four-legged companion in your life. Held annually on Aug. 26, National Dog Day was founded by animal advocate Colleen Paige in 2004 as a way to encourage dog adoptions.
Are you looking for a late summer pick-me-up for you and your pooch? Here are seven ways to celebrate National Dog Day.
1. Host a dog day ‘do’
Invite a few other dog parents or dog-friendly folks to an outdoor party in your backyard. Or spread the word for an Aug. 26 meet-up at your favorite dog park.
Gee points out that dogs can serve as a “social lubricant” during these divisive times. “We can just talk about the dog in front of us and our own pets and not focus on those other more emotionally charged topics,” she says.
What to serve the humans? Hot dogs, of course. And for dessert, pick up a basket of treats that features an assortment of cookies and three different kinds of dog treats. Pawsome!
2. Take a hike
Group activities are fun, but what if you’d prefer some one-on-one time with your pet? Skip the crowded dog park and take a long walk together in a park or other natural setting.
“Biologically speaking, interacting with a dog has been found to reduce blood pressure and other indicators of stress, such as cortisol,” Gee notes. “Psychologically speaking, interacting with a dog has been found to reduce depression, anxiety, and elevate mood.”
When you combine those perks with fresh air and exercise, you’re doing a lot of good things for your health. However, staying hydrated is essential for both of you. That’s why you need a handy personalized dog water bottle to take with you on your adventure.
3. Cozy up on the couch
Since National Dog Day falls during the — ahem — dog days of summer, staying inside in an AC-controlled environment could be a better choice.
You can create your own National Dog Day movie marathon with classic films such as “My Dog Skip,” “Air Bud,” “Homeward Bound,” “Turner and Hooch,” “The Adventures of Milo and Otis,” “Benji,” and “Lassie.”
Make things extra cozy by cuddling up with your fur baby and a personalized fleece blanket. It can include your dog’s name and its phonetic pronunciation, as well as your choice of three humorous “definitions” that range from “Shoe chewer” to “Best friend.”
4. Get tricky
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Dogs are eager to learn, and they love to please their humans. All you need is some time, patience, and tasty treats.
While you work on the first two requirements, these organic dog treats have got you covered for the third. Your dog will flip (or sit…or shake…or roll over) for these all-natural, oven-baked snacks that, at least as far as Fido can tell, taste like peanut butter cookies. And you’ll rest easy knowing they contain no wheat, corn, or soy.
5. Take a dog nap
Cat naps are great, but let’s face it, dogs have got the napping thing down, too. Plus, they are so adorable when they act like they’re running or bark while they’re dreaming.
Naps are also beneficial for humans. In fact, new research shows that brief daytime naps can boost our brain health.
A special napping pillow for your furry friend is a great way to celebrate National Dog Day. This personalized dog bone pillow can be embroidered with your pet’s name, and when things get a little too, umm, hairy, you can unzip the cover for washing.
6. Keep them safe
According to the Michelson Found Animals Foundation, one in three pets will get lost at some point in their lifetime, and without an ID, 90% will not return home. Microchipping and pet identification tags help your precious pet get back home safely.
You can make a new personalized collar part of this year’s National Dog Day celebration. This snappy plaid model can be imprinted with your dog’s name and your phone number, eliminating the need for a separate ID tag. The fabric collar comes in your choice of four colors.
7. Adopt a dog
Whether you’re looking for a new adventure buddy for yourself or a furry companion for your four-legged friend while you’re at work, your local animal shelter may have the perfect canine.
Check out your shelter’s website for photos and descriptions of their current guests, and then pay an in-person visit to see who has that special spark.
Of course, you’re going to want to celebrate the new addition to your family, and this important day, so have a “gotcha day” gift basket waiting for the pooch when he arrives at his new home. It includes cute toys, rawhide-free chews, carob chip treats, and a darling bow tie and bandana — all in a reusable woven rope tin.