A flurry of studies have crossed my path recently about the benefits of owning a dog. Writer Elizabeth Scott from about.com compiled some recent studies outlining the benefits of having a dog around around the domicile. Here are some highlights.

  • Pets Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs: Yes, it’s true. While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, in a study, groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. 
  • Pets Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love: Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and are excellent snugglers. And they could be the best antidote to loneliness. In fact, research shows that nursing home residents reported less loneliness when visited by dogs than when they spent time with other people! 
  • Pets Can Reduce Stress—Sometimes More Than People: While we all know the power of talking about your problems with a good friend who’s also a good listener, recent research shows that spending time with a pet may be even better! Recent research shows that, when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present! 

This research made me realize that I was ahead of the curve in my proposal to start the Canine School of Evangelism several months ago. Think about it. If Christians could learn dog techniques (exempting the sniffing part) to express our beliefs we could probably ignite a revival. Canine instructors would be housed in the Fellowship of Evangelical Teachers Canine Hall (FETCH).

The CSE (Canine School of Evangelism) curriculum would include a catalog of courses like these. This is a suggested course load from that earlier post with a sample quote and verse.

1) Introduction to Unconditional Love – A core course designed to teach Christians how to emulate the unconditional love of a faithful dog. What a great feeling to come in from a lousy day to the quivering adulation of our adopted Labrador/God only knows what else dog named Hannah.  If we could even approach that level of unconditional love as followers of Christ we couldn’t find enough seats in our sanctuaries for the crowds. Syllabus quote: “No matter what you have done a friendly dog will approach you with joy and trust. A dog does not keep score of good deeds versus bad. We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.” (M. Acklam)

Course verse: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  I Cor 13, NIV

2) Grace 101 – Our canines will teach how to love others wherever they are in their journey and without judgment. How many people would be restored if they had experienced such grace? Dogs don’t care what you did ten years ago, ten days ago, or ten minutes ago. They just know that you are here with them right now. Syllabus quote: He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader.  He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. (Author Unknown) 

Course verses: “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5, NIV

3) Unselfishness Lab with an Actual Lab –  Is there any more unselfish creature on the planet than a dog? Our dog Hannah can be denied time after time to play or take a walk. No grudges. No change in how she feels about me. And when you finally get around to her she looks at me like I am the coolest guy on the planet. Syllabus quote: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” (Josh Billings)

Course Verse: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.  I Cor 10, NIV

4) Integrity in Comptemporary Culture –  Do you really think a dog would betray you? Syllabus quote: The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue (Author Unknown)

Course Verses: gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.  Prov 11:13, NIV

5) Practical Advanced Gratitude –  I think any creature that is grateful for the same dog food every single night is qualified to teach us (What? Same old manna?) about having a grateful attitude. Syllabus quote: If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man. (Mark Twain)

Course verse: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Col 3, NIV

6) Beginning Empathy – Our dog Hannah has an amazing calming effect on me. I call her “furry Prozac” for her ability to soothe my frayed nerves. Syllabus quote:One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you're feeling blue is that he doesn't try to find out why.  (Author Unknown) 

Course Verse:  LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8  NIV

7) Essential Joy for Living –  My dog is the canine Will Rogers. She has never met a man (or woman or child) she didn’t like. Wouldn’t it be nice if the body of Christ at least took a shot at that? Syllabus quote: Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails.  (Max Eastman)

Course verse: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 13, NIV

There you have the basic curriculum for my new Canine School of Evangelism. As I go for my Dog-torate of Ministry degree I can tell you that I have one goal before I graduate. And that is to be as good of a person as my dog already thinks I am.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com