Both scientific studies and common sense shows that having a dog has many health benefits. Some of the benefits of having a dog are improved heart health and overall health in general.
You can improve your social life and decrease negative life experiences such as loneliness, stress, and depression. Other benefits are exercise, security, and happiness.
My favorite benefit is having a hiking and camping buddy who loves being with me. What is your favorite reason for having a dog?
What Are The Main Health Benefits Of Having A Dog
By having a dog in your life you will have a healthier heart and body. You will also be happier, have more social interactions with other people, and you feel safer in your home. Let’s take a look at these benefits starting with heart health.
5 Scientific Heart-Related Reasons to Get a Dog
There have been studies that show that heart health is improved when people own a dog. This includes 1) lower blood pressure and 2) heart rate, 3) reduced cholesterol & triglyceride levels, 4) fewer heart attacks and 5) better recovery after a heart attack.
I did a quick read through the studies below and tried to make sense of the medical mumbo-jumbo.
Cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions
This first report is on how petting and talking to your pet can lower your blood pressure. Touching a dog leads to the greatest reduction in blood pressure and with the lowest heart rate. Talking to a dog resulted in slightly higher pressure and heart rate. Both levels were highest when talking to people.
Your dog will love hearing that because more belly rubs and butt scratches are coming his or her way.
Benefits: Lower blood pressure and heart rate
Dogs & Health…
This study also showed a reduced blood pressure in dog owners versus non-owners. It also found that triglycerides and cholesterol levels were lowered. And it mentions improved survival rates following a heart attack for dog owners.
They also note that the physical activity involved with having a companion dog “…may also influence health.”
Benefits: Lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels, improved heart attack survival rate
The Effect of Walking on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
Wow, a lot of numbers and measurements in this study but it’s basically about the positive effects of walking on cardiovascular health. The results were that walking reduced blood pressure, weight, and body mass index (BMI).
Benefits: Lower blood pressure, weight loss
The Truth about Cats and Dogs
Another abstract of a study by a number of doctors that mentions “…people with pets had significantly lower heart rate and blood pressure levels during a resting baseline.”
I do not understand the remainder of the sentence or following sentences. But it sounds like because pets are perceived as important and supportive, cardiovascular and behavioral benefits are the result.
Benefits: Lower heart rate and blood pressure
Exercise with Your Dog: Pet Owners Get More Exercise
This section covers 5 more physical benefits as well as 4 psychological benefits. I go into more detail about exercise at the end of this section. The psychological benefits are covered in greater detail in the following section.
Influence of Companion Animals on the Physical and Psychological Health of Older People
This study states that elderly pet owners are slightly more physically active than non-owners. I think that is misleading because the elderly aren’t known for massive activity levels.
But the report goes on to say that “…pet ownership significantly modified the relationship between social support and the change in psychological well‐being”. My translation of that statement: Granny has more friends and is happier.
Benefits: Increase in physical activity, increase in social activity
Health Benefits …Due to Pets
This article is a survey in Australia and not a scientific study. The results of the survey were that dog owners make fewer doctor visits and “…are less likely to be on medication for heart problems & sleeping difficulties” than people without dogs. And that saves you money.
Benefits: Fewer doctor visits, less need for medication
Potential Benefits of Pet Ownership…
You can only see one paragraph except for this report. The excerpt mentions that having a pet increases exercise while reducing anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
It goes on to say “The benefits of pet ownership are consistent with health promotion and disease prevention goals… (which) include (a) increasing physical activity and fitness and (b) improving mental health and preventing mental disorders”
Benefits: Increase in physical activity, reduced anxiety, loneliness, and depression
The Benefit of Increased Exercise and Activity
So this was touched on in some of the benefits above, but dog owners tend to have higher activity levels. I would think mostly from walking their dog.
They have to because their dogs need exercise and to relieve themselves. Take a look at my article on How Much Exercise Does A Dog Need for more information.
Many people do not get enough weekly exercise. Taking your dog outside gets you a mile or two of walking each day. I average under an 18-minute mile when I go hiking.
The amount of time to walk a mile is much slower with a dog that stops to sniff, but you should still be able to walk a mile in 30 minutes. That equates to at least two miles of walking each day with three 20-minute dog walks.
That’s important for the elderly as it helps with mobility. And though walking is not a major calorie burner, it can help to reduce your weight.
Walking your dog is great when the weather is beautiful. The trick is getting motivated when the weather stinks. You have to stick with it and give your furry friend some exercise.
Benefits: Increase in physical activity, mobility and life expectancy
Dogs Help Reduce Allergies & Can Detect Cancer
Here are two more physical benefits but with some caveats.
Cats and Dogs and Allergies
Atopy is the genetic tendency to develop allergies. It is often stated that owning a pet helps reduce the development of allergies, but this seems to only be true if you have atopy in your family.
The focus of this study is only on children with atopy in their family history. It looks like you are very likely NOT to develop allergies if you had a dog and a cat as a child.
Growing up with only a cat or a dog did not show to reduce developing allergies, though having both later in life seems to help.
Does early exposure to cat or dog protect against later allergy development?
This study shows that children exposed to pets in the first year of life “…had a lower frequency of allergic rhinitis at 7-9 years of age and of asthma at 12-13 years.”
So this seems to contradict the study above, but that may be given the introduction of an animal before the child turns one.
Their conclusion: “Pet exposure during the first year of life and an increasing number of siblings were both associated with a lower prevalence of allergic rhinitis and asthma in school children.”
Detection of Prostate Cancer by Dogs
That dogs can detect if you have cancer is an amazing talent. However, the majority of the studies mention that the dogs have to sniff your urine for prostate cancer detection.
Well, they like sniffing butts, so why not sniff your pee. Though there is a requirement to this benefit – they have to be trained to smell cancer in urine. So this doesn’t seem like an immediate benefit.
They can also sniff out lung and breast cancer from your breath. But once again they need to be trained.
Benefits: Less likely to develop allergies, possible cancer detection
Improved Social Life and Mental Health Benefits
You are more likely to meet and talk to other dog owners or people asking about your dog. People will strike up a conversation while you are walking your dog when normally they probably would not.
I walk my dog in the wintertime with a red & blue striped sweater. He looks like Charlie Brown in the sweater and it always gets comments like “Love the sweater!”
There are some people who are extremely shy or just bad with interacting with people. In this case, a dog may be the closest relationship they will ever have. Dogs rule!
Benefits: Improved social life, reduces loneliness
Fight Depression, Loneliness & Stress
The Effects of Animal-Assisted Therapy on Loneliness in the Elderly
The title says it all. But it’s not just the elderly that have a reduction in loneliness as a result of owning a dog. It’s everyone who owns a dog. No more studies. Here are the final benefits of owning a dog.
Therapy dogs “ease” depression in many different demographics of people. Spending time with dogs can lower anxiety. Petting makes you feel good, makes you relax and reduces stress.
So it was interesting to find out that getting vitamin D from the sun. It has been proven that vitamin D fights depression. If you are feeling down, get your dog outside.
Your dog is always there for you – a constant companion. The “man’s best friend” phrase isn’t just a saying (a woman’s best friend too).
Some of the final mental health benefits of owning a dog revolve around anxiety. Dogs really help people with PTSD, ADHD or high anxiety. There are a lot of studies on those benefits. You should look into that subject further if you know someone who could benefit from a dog.
I sometimes get asked to add a link to my Links page but I rarely oblige. But I agreed when someone from Recovery Village asked for a link. They help with dog adoption for people recovering from substance addiction. That’s a worthwhile link.
Benefits: Reduces loneliness & stress, fights depression
Dogs Make you Happy
This one doesn’t need a scientific study to prove. Dogs make you feel good, smile more and generally feel happier. If you don’t own a dog, then you have to take my word for it. Every other loving dog owner will agree with me.
Benefits: They make you 🙂
Safety from Fire, Intruders
There have been multiple accounts of dogs waking up family members when there was a fire in the house. How many ways can a dog save our lives?
And although the barking can be annoying, it is nice to know that they will alert you when there is someone approaching your house.
Benefits: You sleep better
Disadvantages of Having a Dog
Many people are injured from falling due to their pets, most by dogs. This one can be serious, especially for the elderly. Some people avoid stepping on their dog’s paw and fall as a result. Try putting a bell on their collar.
There is also time commitment, cost, coverage when you travel, and training involved. Newly adopted dogs have also been known to chew shoes and make a mess. And let’s throw in barking and an occasional “accident”.
If you can handle those issues, then I believe the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Hopefully, these benefits to having a dog convince you to adopt a dog. I believe you will not regret it. And I think that is 19 benefits, but I lost count. Maybe it’s 20 with the weight loss benefit.
If you already own a dog,. what benefits would you add to the list? I definitely get out of the house more often, especially during great weather. It is great camping and hiking with my dog, and he often makes me smile.
Share your thoughts and experiences below. (I know there are more benefits.)