From their loyalty and constant companionship to their ability to always bring a smile to our faces—there’s no shortage of ways that dogs make our lives better. But the power of pups goes beyond the normal day-to-day delights. In fact, a growing body of research suggests several health benefits of dogs exist.
Let’s look at a few key findings.
Why Having a Dog Is Good for Your Physical Health
You love your pup with all of your heart. And according to science, doing so is actually good for your heart.
This Mayo Clinic Proceedings study compared the cardiovascular health scores of pet owners to that of those who did not own pets. Validating previous studies, researchers found that people with pets were more physically active, which may account for the superior scores.
This isn’t too surprising, as dogs encourage us to move around, play and take walks. But the benefits go beyond increased exercise: Pet-owning participants were also more likely to report a better diet and an ideal blood sugar level.
The result? A stronger, healthier heart.
How Your Dog Supports Your Psychological Health
Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions. Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) conducted a survey in which 61% of Americans reported feeling lonely or socially isolated.
And that’s a big deal because loneliness contributes to depression and cognitive decline and can increase risk for heart disease and stroke. Incredibly, there’s scientific proof that loneliness is as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
So, anything that alleviates feelings of loneliness inherently has a positive impact on overall health. And that’s where dogs come in.
- 80% of people think their pets make them feel less lonely
- 90% of people aged 55+ believe pets can help older people combat loneliness
- 54% of people think their pets help them connect with other people
And pet-human relationships are mutually beneficial since dogs also long for companionship and connection. She may not be able to carry on a conversation, but rest assured that your furry friend appreciates your little chats as much as you do.
Ways That Dogs Enhance Your Emotional Health
A recent study found that when pets are in the classroom, students follow instructions and stay focused better, as well as learn responsibility and empathy. And for kids dealing with trying times, therapy dogs provide emotional support and comfort.
These benefits extend to adults, as well. Just consider why we often refer to dogs as (hu)man’s best friend—if you were asked to describe your best friend, you’d probably use words like:
These are great qualities in a friend. They also happen to be perfect words to describe canine companions, as well. Because dogs are pack animals. They’re social in nature and love receiving affection and attention. In other words, they enjoy being around us as much as we enjoy being around them.
And that’s not just a hunch. Science shows that when you and your dog look into each other’s eyes, your brains release a hormone that creates feelings of unconditional love.
We often consider dogs to be members of our family, and we integrate them into our daily routines. When you wake in the morning, your dog’s face is usually the first thing you see. Upon returning from a long day at work, a wagging tail happily greets you at the door.
Dogs are the friends that are always there for us and want nothing more than to make us happy. This positive presence in our everyday lives allows them to provide much-needed emotional support.
Side note: Though dogs have historically held the title of best friend, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share the love with all the other companion animals that serve as our trusty sidekicks and emotional rocks. All pets—be them dogs, cats, pocket pets or horses—enhance our lives.
Want to Learn More About the Health Benefits of Dogs?
The impact of dogs on our lives never ceases to amaze. But for anyone who has experienced the joy dogs bring, it also doesn’t surprise.
If you want to dig deeper into the health benefits of dogs, the Human Animal Bond Initiative (HABRI) launched The Pet Effect campaign to share how pets help alleviate depression, support child development and assist in treatment for conditions such as Alzheimers, autism and post-traumatic stress.
Visit the HABRI site for infographics and videos that share some of their findings.