01.03.22

The top 10 benefits of having a dog

As dog owners, we know that we get as much – or more – from our fur babies than they get from us. Dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. They bring us companionship, comfort, joy and motivation. They improve our mental health and general wellbeing, give us a reason to get out of bed each day, and even help us meet new people and connect with them.

Man with his dog playing outdoor in the park. Young owner hugs his pet.

Researchers have been investigating the benefits of having a pet for quite some time, and their findings confirm it – spending time with animal companions is good for us, both physically and emotionally. We’ve analysed some recent studies and found the top ten scientifically backed reasons why dog parents are better off than their pet-less counterparts.

 

1. Dogs make you more active

It goes with the territory. Dog owners tend to be more physically active than non-owners; after all, those daily walks can really add up. A 2019 UK study found that dog owners spend nearly 300 minutes per week walking with their dogs, which was significantly more than the 100 minutes spent on weekly walking by people without a dog.

running with dog

 

2. Dogs reduce loneliness

The research confirms what every dog owner  knows to be true. A survey of pet owners and non-pet owners in the USA found that 80% of pet owners believe their pet makes them feel less lonely, and we all understand why. Dogs can be there for you even when people can’t, providing companionship, comfort and affection that help to stave off social isolation.

A beautiful little dog sitting on its owner looking at her face

What’s more, a study from Tufts University concluded that people who have a strong attachment to a pet feel more connected in their human relationships and their communities.

 

3. Dogs improve your physical health

Not only do our dogs steal our hearts; they also make our hearts stronger! Having a dog has been associated with improved cardiac health in a whole range of studies, while a  2019 review and meta-analysis of numerous prior studies found a 31% risk reduction for cardiovascular death in dog owners.

Woman and dog breed Labrador jumping on the beach

The same review found that children also have health benefits from having a dog in the house; there is a reduced risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis in children exposed to pets during early ages.

 

4. Dogs make you more sociable

We know it and the studies confirm it: dogs are the perfect way to meet new people and form new friendships. Dogs are a common point of conversation with like-minded people, and a conversation starter when meeting new people.

In one study, dog owners were five times more likely to get to know people in their neighbourhood than other pet owners. The researchers found that about 40% of dog owners had an easier time making friends, while those who walked their dog were significantly more likely to get to know people through their pet than dog owners who didn’t walk their dog.

 

5. Dogs relieve stress and anxiety

Not only do our dogs make us smile every time they look at us a certain way, they can also offer comfort to us and help ease our worries. A study of university students found that participants who spent 10 minutes petting a visiting dog had a significant reduction in cortisol, a biomarker of stress.

Not surprisingly, the effects of one’s own dog are even greater: just a few minutes of petting a familiar dog lowers blood pressure and heart rate, slows breathing and relaxes muscle tension.

Man and central Asian shepherd walk in the park. He keeps the dog on the leash

 

6. Dogs help you live longer

In another big bonus for owners, dog ownership is associated with lower risk of death over the long term. Given the relationship to improved cardiac health, the review of previous studies into Dog Ownership and Survival found that dog owners had a 24% risk reduction for death from all causes, as compared to non-owners.

 

7. Dogs increase your happiness

Dogs are a natural anti-depressant; they make their owners happier. Social interaction between bonded owners and dogs has even been shown to stimulate increased oxytocin – also known as the love hormone – in owners.

Additionally, researchers asked subjects to rate people in photographs and found that those people pictured with a dog were perceived as being happier and more relaxed, while an online survey conducted in the US revealed that dog owners were more satisfied with their lives than non-owners.

 

8. Dogs can help those experiencing mental health difficulties

Dogs can help people recover psychologically from a crisis. Military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) exhibited significantly fewer symptoms of PTSD and showed improved coping skills when they lived with a service dog.

Many studies exploring the effects of dogs on seniors have found improvement in wellbeing and alleviation of social isolation. As a result, some innovative healthcare and retirement facilities have begun incorporating pets into their treatment and wellbeing programs.

 

9. Dogs instil routine and discipline

Our dogs give us a reason to get out of bed each morning. They are dependent on us for most of their daily needs, such as food and exercise. Fitting our dogs’ needs into our day forces us to allocate our time better, get up early when we’d rather sleep in, or go for a walk whether we want to or not.

A recent Australian survey titled “Pets and the Pandemic” established that pets bring routine and discipline into their owners’ lives, which helped to improve physical and mental wellbeing during the more challenging periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as extended lockdowns and job losses.

 

10. Dogs make you more likeable (and help get you dates!)

Young happy couple playing with Labrador dog smiling in park

A dog’s presence may make people appear more likeable and attractive. In studies to test this, photos of individuals pictured with a dog were rated more highly than photos of individuals pictured without a dog.

Another study found that men were more likely to get a woman’s phone number when the man had a dog with him!

 

This article is written by

Nicky Klugman

Nicky is our Marketing Communications and Content Specialist. She is an animal-lover who is particularly interested in animal behaviour and the relationships between humans and their pets. While growing up, dogs were always an integral part of the family. Nicky is mum to three human sons and a rescue pup called Dobby.

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*Please note, any pet insurance advice provided is general only. Refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover.
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