It’s 6am on a cold, wintery Tuesday and, for most of us, the perfect time to be tucked up peacefully under the covers. If you’re a pet owner, however, it’s probably also the perfect time to take the dog for a quick jog before walk. As tough as it may be to drag yourself out of bed, once you’ve felt the fresh air on your face and seen the wag in your dog’s tail, it can also feel like you’ve had the perfect start to your day.
Dog owners often claim that their pet has made them happier and healthier, and given them a new lease on life. And it’s it’s not just fanciful thinking. There are actually a whole raft of proven health and wellbeing benefits to being a dog owner. Here are some of them.
Improved heart health
According to a 2017 study in Sweden, which involved 3.4 million people, owning a dog can reduce the risk of a cardiovascular-related death by 36%, when compared with single people without a pet. The chance of having a heart attack was also 11% lower.
“Dogs may be beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk in their owners by providing social support and motivation for physical activity,” the report says.
A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also looked at 421 adults who had suffered heart attacks. The study found that a year on, dog owners were significantly more likely to still be alive than those who did not own dogs, regardless of how severe their heart attack.
Dogs need daily exercise, and as such, are a great way to encourage people of all ages to get off the couch and into the outdoors.
Even just exercising for 30 minutes a day can deliver a whole raft of health benefits for people of all ages, including weight loss, stress reduction, improved heart health, mood boosts, more energy, improved memory and much more.
According to a recent article on The Conversation, dog owners have a 34% higher chance of meeting the 150 minutes exercise per week guideline set by the World Health Organisation, and that they are 69% more likely to do any physical activity than non-owners.
We all want to reduce stress in our lives - and having a pet has been shown to lower stress hormones and the heart rate, as well as anxiety and fear levels.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, research teams are examining the potential for specially trained animals to assist in clinical settings - with dogs and other animals increasingly used in hospitals and nursing homes.
Better social skills
Owning a dog can also help people become more social. Attending dog training classes, visiting dog parks and chatting with other pet owners can be good for the soul.
This article, for instance, references a study in which people in wheelchairs who had a dog received more smiles and had more conversations with passersby than those without a dog.
“Pets keep loneliness and isolation at bay and make us smile. In other words, their creature camaraderie and ability to keep us engaged in daily life (via endearing demands for food, attention and walks) are good recipes for warding off the blues,” the article says.
How much exercise does your dog need?
All dogs are different, and while some dogs will need long walks twice a day, others may not be so interested. Take a look at these dog walking guidelines from the RSPCA.