National Dog Day

By Dr. Kaitlin Wurtz December 16, 2020

Our lives are significantly enriched through the presence of dogs. There are currently over 76 million dogs residing in the United States across 48 million households (AVMA, 2018). In addition to being our companions, dogs also serve individuals and our society as a whole through many working roles. Despite how wonderful dogs are, many end up in shelters for a variety of reasons. It is estimated that around 3.3 million dogs enter shelters annually (Shelter Animals Count, 2016).

What Is National Dog Day?

National Dog Day is a day set aside to celebrate the important roles dogs play in our lives as well as to encourage responsible dog ownership to reduce the number of dogs that end up in shelters. In 2013 National Dog Day was officially adopted into New York State Legislation, however it is celebrated across the nation. National Dog Day aims to honor both family and working dogs for all of the roles they play in our lives and society. This day celebrates dogs of all breeds, both mixed and pure, and hopes to raise awareness of the number of dogs in public shelters and dog rescues that are waiting for loving homes. A few major impacts that dogs have on our lives include:

  • Providing companionship, comfort, and joy

Dogs contribute positively to their owner’s emotional and social well-being. Owning a dog can provide comfort and help reduce feelings of loneliness. They can also provide stress relief and an opportunity to nurture others (Sable, 1995). Dogs’ positive effect on mental health has even been employed in the medical field. An example of this was a project that provided patients with a dog to help encourage mobility, interpersonal contact, and communication, as well as to reinforce personal hygiene and self-care in patients with schizophrenia (Barak et al., 2001).

  • Encouraging social contact

Research has shown that dogs help promote positive neighborhood interactions and a sense of community (Graham and Glover, 2014; Bulsara et al., 2007; Wood et al., 2007). Dogs provide a common interest within communities and foster information sharing, social interactions, and civic engagement. The presence of dogs in neighborhoods can also affect the perceptions of a neighborhood’s friendliness and sense of community (Wood et al., 2007). Places like dog parks, animal shelters, local pet shops help create social bonds within towns and cities.

  • Promoting physical health

There is also a great deal of evidence suggesting that owning a dog can be good for your physical health. Dog owners have been shown to walk significantly more than non-owners. They also had lower serum triglycerides (Dembicki and Anderson, 1996). Another study found that patients with coronary artery disease that also owned pets survived longer (Friedmann and Thomas, 1995). Another study examined long term health effects of dog owners and found that dog ownership comprehensively improved many aspects of their health (Serpell, 1991).

  • Positive impact on society

Dogs also play a significant role in society outside of being family pets. Many dogs assist people with disabilities or act as therapy animals. Dogs even serve on police teams to offer protection and to help sniff out substances or dangerous materials. They can help find missing people and work to keep large groups of people safe. Dogs can also serve as hunting partners or may serve as livestock guardians.

Who Created National Dog Day?

An animal rescue advocate and pet lifestyle expert named Colleen Paige created National Dog Day in 2004 (National Dog Day, n.d.). Colleen is also a conservationist, dog trainer, and author with an interest in improving the lives of all animals – not just dogs. She has helped found a number of other holidays including National Wildlife Day, National Cat Day, and National Mutt Day, all with the goal to raise public awareness towards important issues facing animals.

When Is National Dog Day?

August 26th is the official day dedicated to celebrating National Dog Day. This date was chosen by Colleen as this is the date that her family adopted their first dog from a local animal shelter when she was 10 years old (National Dog Day, n.d.). She hopes this day can help encourage other families to make the decision to adopt a dog in need instead of buying from questionable sources.

Why Was National Dog Day Created?

This holiday was created to help discourage people from purchasing dogs from pet stores, which are often supplied by puppy mills, or from backyard breeders (e.g. from advertisements placed in newspapers or online). Instead, National Dog Day aims to inform the public about the number of dogs in rescues or shelters that need a home. They encourage people to adopt from shelters, mixed or purebred rescues, or to check out your local pet store chain that often host adoption events. They also encourage those that choose to purchase from a breeder to do thorough research to make sure that they are reputable. Check to make sure they have appropriate licenses and consider reaching out to the local vet or individuals that adopted dogs in the past to get honest reviews.

In addition, the founders of National Dog Day strongly encourage future dog owners to educate themselves on the breed they are interested in to make sure they will be a good fit for their lifestyle. Things to consider include the dog’s grooming needs, how much they shed, their exercise needs, their mental stimulation needs, dietary needs, their prey drive, the breed’s propensity to bark, as well as if there are any health issues the breed is susceptible to. It is also important that dogs are never given as a gift unless the recipient has been involved in the process and is ready for the commitment. By helping people make informed decisions before bringing a dog home, the number of dogs that end up surrendered to shelters can be reduced.

What To Do On National Dog Day?

National Dog Day should be celebrated by paying tribute to the dogs in our lives and society, as well as promoting dog adoption from shelters and rescues. The following are some ideas for how to participate:

  • If you are looking to add a dog to your family – consider adopting a dog on National Dog Day! Many adopted dog’s birthdays are celebrated on the day they are adopted which adds even more reason to celebrate this special day.
  • Donate money, pet food, blankets, or other supplies to your local shelter.
  • Consider signing up to volunteer with your local dog shelter. Shelters are always in need to people to help with cleaning, feeding, and exercising their residents.
  • Start a fundraiser for a dog rescue organization or service dog organization.
  • Become a poster parent to dogs in need. Shelters can be stressful places for dogs and your home can provide a safe and comfortable environment for the dog while they wait for their forever family.
  • If you are a dog owner – do something extra special with your dog. Take them to a dog friendly beach or for a hike in the woods. Maybe bake them some dog safe treats or take them to a pet store to let them pick out some toys to bring home.
  • Spread awareness on social media – help educate the public on the benefits of dog adoption and how to be responsible dog parents.
  • Take some time to learn about famous dogs by reading or watching a movie. Pay tribute to the significant roles that dogs have played in our society.

Is There An International Dog Day?

While there is not an official International Dog Day, many other countries have joined in on the celebration of National Dog Day in the United States. Networks of dog shelters and rescues have joined forces across the world to raise awareness of the need for responsible dog ownership and to encourage adoption of dogs needing a home.


Make sure to mark your calendars for August 26th so you do not miss the celebration! Dogs do so much for us, it is important to set aside time to thank them. Make a plan to support your local dog shelter in any way that you can and if you are a lucky dog owner – spend some extra special time with your furry companion.

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Works Cited

AVMA. (2018). US pet ownership & demographics sourcebook (2012). J Am Vet Med Assoc253(3), 264-264.

Barak, Y., Savorai, O., Mavashev, S., & Beni, A. (2001). Animal-assisted therapy for elderly schizophrenic patients: a one-year controlled trial. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry9(4), 439-442.

Bulsara, M., Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., & Bosch, D. (2007). More than a furry companion: The ripple effect of companion animals on neighborhood interactions and sense of community. Society & Animals15(1), 43-56.

Dembicki, D., & Anderson, J. (1996). Pet ownership may be a factor in improved health of the elderly. Journal of Nutrition for the Elderly15(3), 15-31.

Friedmann, E., & Thomas, S. A. (1995). Pet ownership, social support, and one-year survival after acute myocardial infarction in the Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial (CAST). The American journal of cardiology76(17), 1213-1217.

Graham, T. M., & Glover, T. D. (2014). On the fence: Dog parks in the (un) leashing of community and social capital. Leisure Sciences36(3), 217-234.

National Dog Day. (n.d.). Retrieved November 20, 2020.

Sable, P. (1995). Pets, attachment, and well-being across the life cycle. Social work40(3), 334-341.

Serpell, J. (1991). Beneficial effects of pet ownership on some aspects of human health and behaviour. Journal of the royal society of medicine84(12), 717-720.

Shelter Animals Count (2016). Animal Sheltering Statistics.