Screw you, anyone who says dogs aren’t man’s best friend. No disrespect to the sika deer or the screaming hairy armadillo, but when it comes to couch cuddles and fetching sticks, we’re choosing Fido every time.
Science says we have good reason to. Multiple studies have confirmed the physical and mental benefits of owning a dog, and they go way beyond unconditional love and sloppy kisses.
Some of the most recent research on the subject comes from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge found that dog owners are sedentary for 30 fewer minutes per day on average than those who do not own dogs, even during crummy weather.
“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,” project lead Andy Jones, a UEA professor, said in a press release.
“Being driven by something other than our own needs might be a really potent motivator and we need to find ways of tapping into it when designing exercise interventions in the future,” he added.
These findings support an earlier study conducted at Michigan State University, which found that dog owners are more likely to stick to their training plans and reach their exercise goals than those who do not have canine companions.
And improved fitness is only one of the reasons you may want to switch your allegiance from cat person to pup person. Other benefits of owning a dog include:
Lower Blood Pressure
The simple act of petting a dog can lower heart rate and blood pressure. The American Heart Association put out a statement confirming that multiple studies have found a link between pet ownership and better heart health, most likely because pets have a calming effect and dog owners tend to get more exercise. There is also evidence that owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Decreased Risk Of Allergies & Asthma
Though dogs are a trigger for allergies in some, research at the University of Cincinnati suggests that owning a dog has some immunotherapy benefits and can reduce other allergies by as much as four times. Another study linked exposure to dogs at a young age to a lower risk of asthma in childhood.
Chronic Disease Prevention
Autoimmune disease and allergies are only one part of the chronic disease prevention equation. Dog owners who walk their dogs regularly also have one-third the risk of diabetes than non-owners, according to exercise scientist Cindy Lentino. Those who already suffer from serious health conditions can also benefit from canine companionship. Studies have found that dog ownership can reduce agitation and anxiety in people with dementia; increase survival rate following a heart attack, and reduce the need for pain medication when recovering from surgery.
Lower Stress Levels
Instituting a “bring your dog to work” day could be one of your company’s smartest moves. A study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that people who took their pups to work reported lower stress throughout the day than employees without pets or those who had pets but didn’t bring them in. Dogs in the office also encourage people to take more breaks for playtime or walkies, which makes them more energised when they return to work, leading to greater job satisfaction and productivity in the long run.
Improved Mental Health
Dog owners are happier, more conscientious, and less neurotic than cat owners, according to researchers at Manhattanville College in New York. Though all pet owners were found to be more satisfied with life than non-owners, dog owners scored higher than cat owners on all measures of well-being. Dog owners are also less likely to suffer from depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem than non-owners.
Better Human Relationships
Dogs provide many of the same emotional and social benefits as your human friends, but they can also strengthen your bonds with fellow homo sapiens. Polls show that people trust dog owners more than other strangers on the street, and studies confirm that owning and walking a dog increases social interaction. On top of that, researchers at Central Michigan University found that when a dog is present in a collaborative group setting, group members rank their teammates higher in terms of trust, team cohesion, cooperation, and intimacy.