Dog ownership comes with a host of responsibilities. Most people are also wary of health risks and sanitation concerns, but research has shown that owning a dog can actually be beneficial to health in the long run. Here are a few reasons why owning a dog can make you healthier and feel happier.
1. Increased Immunity
It’s been established that people who own dogs are less likely to fall sick They suffer from colds and coughs less often than those who don’t own dogs. In fact, children who have more contact with dogs, tend to suffer from respiratory tract illnesses or symptoms less often. They also go through fewer courses of antibiotics in a year than kids without dogs.1 Kids who grow up exposed to dogs, also tend to have fewer allergies and skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis.2
2. Regular Routine
Dogs tend to have a set, regular routine for everything from mealtimes to bathroom breaks. They have a good sense of timing and are seen to get anxious as dinnertime approaches, or excited as they realize their owner is close to arriving home from work. Due to their need for routine, dog owners tend to reflect this in their own lives. Their sleep routines may be more regular too, meaning that their owners are likely to be more well rested and therefore healthier.
3.Increased Physical Activity
Every dog owner knows that their furry friend needs some level of activity every single day. Even the most lethargic dog needs a walk down to the local supermarket. Owners who walk their own dogs tend to be more physically active than those who don’t own dogs.3 In the long run, more walking means a reduced risk of diseases associated with little or no physical activity. Dog walking has helped patients with type 2 diabetes stay committed to regular physical activity which is important to keep their condition under control.4
4. Increased Emotional Health
Dogs have popularly been used in animal-assisted therapy. They have been shown to reduce blood pressure and markers of stress as well. In one study, dogs helped reduce markers of depression and anxiety among elderly residents at a long-term care facility.5 It has also been proven that kids who grow up with dogs tend to be more empathetic and pro-social.6 In the workplace, employees who were allowed to bring their dogs to work showed higher levels of job satisfaction and decreased stress levels throughout the day as compared to those who did not bring their dogs with them.7 They have also been shown to provide comfort to children with insecure attachment in stressful situations. This could pave the way for their use with children who have special needs or learning disabilities who respond poorly in stressful situations. 8
5. Improved Safety And Quality Of Life For Chronically Ill
Dogs can be trained to do amazing things for us. They can help those who are blind or deaf in their daily functioning and prevent injury or life threatening situations. They can be trained to detect subtle chemical changes in the body that signal a drop in blood sugar. They can then alert their owners to these changes. Dogs can learn to predict seizures and alert other family members or activate a specially designed alarm system. They have even been trained to remove dangerous objects from the area and even lie down to help break their owner’s fall and prevent further injury. There have been instances of dogs detecting cases of cancer in their owners. Turns out our canine companions may know our bodies better than we do.
6. Increased Socialization
Dogs serve as good ice-breakers and allow people to open more conversations more easily. Consequently, dog owners find it easier to meet new people in their neighborhood and make new friends. Taking their pets out on walks and other pet-related activities helped create new social connections, increasing sources of social support.9
If you own a dog, you can definitely vouch for these benefits. Maybe you could give them an extra belly rub today to express how thankful you are. If you don’t own one, maybe it’s time to consider adopting your own own furry friend.
|↑1||Bergroth, Eija, Sami Remes, Juha Pekkanen, Timo Kauppila, Gisela Büchele, and Leea Keski-Nisula. “Respiratory tract illnesses during the first year of life: effect of dog and cat contacts.” Pediatrics (2012): peds-2011.|
|↑2||Gern, James E., Claudia L. Reardon, Sabine Hoffjan, Dan Nicolae, Zhanhai Li, Kathy A. Roberg, William A. Neaville et al. “Effects of dog ownership and genotype on immune development and atopy in infancy.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 113, no. 2 (2004): 307-314.|
|↑3||Cutt, Hayley, Billie Giles-Corti, Matthew Knuiman, Anna Timperio, and Fiona Bull. “Understanding dog owners’ increased levels of physical activity: results from RESIDE.” American Journal of Public Health 98, no. 1 (2008): 66-69.|
|↑4||Peel, Elizabeth, Margaret Douglas, Odette Parry, and Julia Lawton. “Type 2 diabetes and dog walking: patients’ longitudinal perspectives about implementing and sustaining physical activity.” Br J Gen Pract 60, no. 577 (2010): 570-577.|
|↑5||Le Roux, Marieanna C., and Rene Kemp. “Effect of a companion dog on depression and anxiety levels of elderly residents in a long‐term care facility.” Psychogeriatrics 9, no. 1 (2009): 23-26.|
|↑6||Vidović, Vlasta Vizek, Vesna Vlahović Štetić, and Denis Bratko. “Pet ownership, type of pet and socio-emotional development of school children.” Anthrozoös 12, no. 4 (1999): 211-217.|
|↑7||Barker, Randolph T., Janet S. Knisely, Sandra B. Barker, Rachel K. Cobb, and Christine M. Schubert. “Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions.” International Journal of Workplace Health Management 5, no. 1 (2012): 15-30.|
|↑8||Beetz, Andrea, Henri Julius, Dennis Turner, and Kurt Kotrschal. “Effects of social support by a dog on stress modulation in male children with insecure attachment.” Frontiers in psychology 3 (2012): 352.|
|↑9||Pets can help their humans create friendships, find social support. Harvard Health Publications.|