10 Benefits of Being a Dog Owner: Backed by Science
Owning a dog comes with its share of responsibilities, but they are far outnumbered by the number of benefits you’ll enjoy. Beyond the love and companionship you’ll experience when owning a dog, there are a variety of benefits backed up by science that you may be surprised to discover.
Let’s start this list off with a bang.
1. Dog owners have increased heart health
Yes, owning a dog helps decrease your risk of heart disease. According to a study done by Harvard, dog owners showed lower levels of cholesterol and triglyceride than non-dog owners. As heart disease is the top cause of death among both men and women in the US, this is kind of a big deal.
Studies have also shown lower blood pressure in dog owners, and this can partially be accounted for by the hormone oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the natural love drug. Whenever you interact with your dog, by petting them, even looking into their eyes, the hormone oxytocin is released in higher levels in both parties. This leads to bonding and is a natural de-stressor.
2. Dogs help your immune system fend off sickness
Decreasing the risk of heart disease is a pretty amazing benefit, but so is this next one. If you’re a germaphobe though, it might be best to jump to #3 on the list. The logic goes like this, dogs bring all sorts of new bacteria into our homes, and into our bodies. Exposure to these bacteria gives our immune systems a boost in fighting diseases. So by covering us in germs, dog owners end up getting sick less often, and with less severity than non-dog owners.
3. Dogs can make us resistant to allergies
This one may sound counterintuitive because there are a lot of folks out there who are allergic to dogs. If you grow up alongside dogs though, you are increasingly becoming more immune to allergies according to a recent study. The study showed that children with dogs see a severely reduced risk (up to 4x lower) of developing other allergies.
In another remarkable study, researchers found that if a dog was in the house during pregnancy, the newborn children showed two new bacteria in their gut, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira. These newfound bacteria help fight off common allergies, asthma, and obesity.
4. Being a dog owner increases your happiness
This one seems a little obvious, but now we have studies to back it up. Being a dog owner makes people less likely to be depressed, and also helps with social support for those that are already clinically depressed. Dog owners showed higher self-esteem, more exercise, less stress and were less lonely.
5. Dogs can help you lose weight
Being a dog owner makes you more active without having to even think about it. The simple act of playing with your dog and going on walks gives your body additional exercise on an ongoing basis. Not to mention the previously mentioned gut microbes that help prevent obesity. According to a study by Healthy People, walking your dog five days a week for just 20 minutes at a time led to an average weight loss of 14.4 pounds over the course of a year.
6. Dogs can detect diseases such as cancer, and potentially save lives
The earliest study that showed dogs could sniff out various forms of cancer was way back in 1989 when The Lancet, a peer-reviewed journal, did a case study that showed a dog repeatedly licking a cancerous mole. Since then there have been many anecdotal stories of dogs sniffing and licking a cancerous lump on their owner’s body. Some dogs are now trained specifically to detect cancer, and your dog may be able to save your life one day if they’ve been blessed with a particularly potent nose.
Dogs have also shown the ability to detect diabetes by sensing when their owner’s blood sugar has dropped.
These dogs are trained by being rewarded whenever they detect the disease and learn to focus in on only that particular scent. Scientists aren’t sure what exactly the dogs are smelling, but the fact that a dogs nose can detect cancer and diabetes is truly incredible.
7. Growing up with a dog makes kids more empathetic
A 2017 study revealed that pet attachment among 12-year-olds promoted positive attitudes and more compassion towards animals. You shouldn’t be surprised to discover that kids with dogs had the highest scores for pet attachment. The study concluded that, “Attachment to pets has an important role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development, mental health, well-being, and quality of life.” It also noted that “dogs may help children to regulate their emotions.”
8. Owning a dog makes you more active
This is another in the “duh” category, but it’s worth pointing out that studies have repeatedly shown that dog owners are more likely to meet their recommended amount of daily activity than non-dog owners.
The simple acts of letting your dog outside, going on walks, and even just having a relaxing playtime session all lead to more exercise for both you and your dog. What’s better than staying healthy while keeping your dog happy? This also means you’re going to have the advantage in friendly fitness tracker competitions. In fact, a recent study showed that on average dog owners took 2,760 more steps than non-dog owners.
“We were amazed to find that dog walkers were on average more physically active and spent less time sitting on the coldest, wettest, and darkest days than non-dog owners were on long, sunny, and warm summer days,” said Andy Jones, a University of East Anglia professor who was in charge of the study.
9. Dog owners live longer lives
With all the medical and health benefits we’ve already covered, it should come as no surprise that dog owners live longer lives. The simple benefits of being happier and less stressed alone should lead to a longer and more enjoyable life, not to mention the exercise benefits and potential early disease detection.
According to the study of over 3.4 million people (Sample size large enough? Check!) researchers concluded that being a dog owner reduced the risk of death by 33 percent.
10. Dogs can help bring out your personality
Part of what makes How I Met My Dog unique is the survey you take when getting matched up with your dog. Based on your answers we can really do a deep dive into what types of dogs will fit best with your personality.
A recent study in England showed a direct link between a dog owner’s personality and the type of dog they owned. The type of dog that you will naturally bond with will tell you a lot about your personality. By getting matched up with a dog that fits your personally you’ll be helping to ensure a positive, fun and mutually beneficial friendship for years to come.
Feel the Burn
Many canine behavior issues stem from excess energy. Help your dog burn that energy with daily, aerobic exercise and your dog will not only be happier but he/she will also be better behaved.