We asked dog lovers why they like to share their homes with their four legged companions. Most of them voted for the special bond between dogs and their owners, the unconditional love and care. Studying of the positive effects of the human-animal bond has been a hot topic among researchers lately and an increasing number of new studies have emerged in the last few years.
The mutually beneficial co-existence of humans and dogs started over 12.000 years ago and it’s stronger than ever. Dr Adam Miklosi from the Ethology Department of Eotvos Lorand University claimed that “the natural environment of dogs is the human social and physical environment”.
But what benefits can we enjoy as a result of the strong human-dog bond?
Researchers started investigating in the 1980s why it is good to share our homes with pets. The list is not complete, but the following benefits have been proven by scientific research:
Cardiovascular health: in a study comprising of over 5500 people, researchers of the Baker Medical Research Institute in Melbourne found that pet owners had lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides, and in men, lower cholesterol than non pet owners, which constitutes to lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Better immune system: a 2004 study found that kids who were exposed to dogs during infancy are more likely to have normal levels of immune function than children from non pet-owning families and that they have a reduced risk of developing allergic sensitisation.
Personal trainer: whether it’s hail or shine, dogs need regular walks. There is no excuse – we can’t escape those sad puppy eyes anyways. Do we have to elaborate on the benefits of regular physical activity?
Less visits to the doctor: according to an Australian study, pet owners save the government approximately 3,86 billion dollars due to them making fewer annual doctor visits than those with no companion animals.
Fewer absence from schools: kids who live with dogs reported fewer sick days from school than kids coming from non-pet owning families (to be clear, this accounts for real sick days not just for skipping school…).
Companionship: pets can alleviate the loneliness of single and widowed people. German researchers found that even a parrot’s presence made a positive impact on the quality of life of aged care residents and improved the physical, social and mental wellbeing of patients.
Social development of kids: research showed that kids and adolescents who share their home with a pet seemed to be more empathetic, have better self-esteem and have shown more responsibility than their peers.
Grief: pet owners deal with the loss of a loved one and cope with grief better than those who don’t have a companion animal.
Community sense: dogs, cats and other pets are great topics to talk about – who doesn’t like to talk about their pet? Dog owners are more likely to start a conversation with others – sometimes dog walking ends up in life-long friendships with other pet owners.
Companion animals have several positive effects on our health from infants to the elderly. Thanks to the curiosity of researchers, more and more theories are confirmed by international studies.
Family dogs are not just great mates, but they make us smile, help us exercise more and are great ice-breakers to start a conversation that may end up in a friendship.
What benefits of being a pet parent do you see?
Accredited Dog Behavioural Consultant and Trainer