We’ve all heard and read news stories affirming the health benefits of dog ownership. Here’s a one-minute video that humorously sums up prevailing beliefs about the positive impact of dog ownership on human health.
The “Prescription Dog” video is from The Pet Effect campaign of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). Founded by animal health company Zoetis, HABRI is a non-profit research and education organization that gathers, funds and shares scientific research demonstrating health benefits of companion animals. Visit the HABRI website for highlights of pet-related research on human health.
This video from Insider Science, “What Having a Dog Does To Your Brain and Body,” features Meg Olmert, author of Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond.
Olmert’s commentary helps explain our physiological response to our dogs.
How Dogs Benefit Our Health
An article from the American Kennel Club, “10 Science-Based Benefits of Having a Dog,” lists these benefits:
- Dogs make us feel less alone.
- Dogs are good for your heart.
- Dogs help you stop stressing out.
- Dogs help us cope with crisis.
- Dogs encourage you to move.
- Dogs make you more attractive—even virtually.
- Dogs make us more social.
- Dogs are so adorable they make us love them.
- Dogs make us happier.
- Dogs help seniors with cognitive function and social interaction.
Read the AKC article to learn more about the science behind these assertions.
In a blog post from pharmacy savings card marketer SingleCare, “9 health benefits of owning a dog,” the listed benefits include:
- Dogs help you stay active.
- Dogs can help reduce risk of heart attack and heart disease.
- Dogs can help reduce triglyceride levels.
- Dogs can help reduce cholesterol levels.
- Dogs can help lower blood pressure levels naturally.
- Dogs can help lower stress levels.
- Dogs can help fight loneliness.
- Service dogs can save lives and help people live more independently.
- Dogs can help bolster your microbiome.
See the SingleCare blog post for details on each of these nine points and the research supporting them.
Despite so much scientific research supporting the idea that dog ownership is good for your health, there have been studies suggesting the opposite. Some studies have found no difference between the health of people who do and do not own pets.
In a CNN article, “The benefits of owning a dog—and the surprising science behind it,” psychologist Harold Herzog, a Western Carolina University professor who studies the human-animal connection, noted there are studies that indicate pet owners “are more likely to be lonely, depressed and have panic attacks, more likely to have asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, gastric ulcers, migraine headaches, and use more medicine, et cetera.”
Quoted in the same article, Co-Director of the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction Megan Mueller said, “A lot of us who have pets think, ‘Oh, they must be uniformly good for us.’ We’re finding is it is a little bit more complicated than we originally thought.
”I always say that it’s not a great question: ‘Are our pets good for us?’ It’s who are pets good for, under what circumstances, and is it the right match between the person and the pet?”
Are You and Your Dog a Match?
While the CNN article says, “Research in this area is booming,” those of us who already own and love our dogs are free to enjoy and benefit from their companionship now, regardless of what researchers report.
Our advice is to make the most of your relationship with your dog. Focus on cultivating mutual love and loyalty, provide good care and most important of all, have fun!