Unconditional love. Devoted companionship. Constant entertainment. Most of us dog lovers know that life is better with a dog. But is that knowledge based on a feeling, or is there something else at work? There is — science.
Spending time with dogs does wonders for your well-being. Recent research shows that owning a dog is good for you physically and emotionally. Dogs make us happier and healthier. They can help us cope with a crisis and can even help you get a date. Read on for 10 science-backed benefits of having a dog.
1. Dogs Make Us Feel Less Alone
Dogs can be there for you even when people can’t. They offer unconditional love, emotional support, and constant cuddles that help stave off social isolation. A small Australian study discovered that dog ownership can reduce loneliness.
A national survey of pet owners and non-pet owners by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute found that 85% of respondents believe that interaction with pets reduces loneliness. Most agree that human-pet interactions can help address social isolation.
2. Dogs Are Good for Your Heart
Owning a dog can help you live longer. A comprehensive review of studies published between 1950 and 2019 found that dog owners had a lower risk of death. Studies suggest that dog owners have lower blood pressure levels and improved responses to stress. Research has concluded that the bond between humans and dogs reduces stress, which is a major cause of cardiovascular problems.
3. Dogs Help You Stop Stressing Out
Even just petting a familiar dog lowers blood pressure and heart rate, slows breathing, and relaxes tense muscles. Scientists at Washington State University discovered that petting a dog for just 10 minutes can have a significant impact. Study participants had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.
4. Dogs Can Help Us Cope in Times of Crisis
Dogs can help us recover psychologically from a crisis. Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine discovered that military veterans with PTSD can do better both physiologically and psychologically when they have a service dog. Veterans with a service dog had significantly fewer symptoms of PTSD and showed improved coping skills.
5. Dogs Encourage You to Move
Those long treks along sidewalks, trails, and paths add up. A 2019 British study discovered that dog owners are nearly four times more likely than non-dog owners to meet daily physical activity guidelines.
Dog owners spend nearly 300 minutes every week walking with their dogs. That’s 200 more minutes of walking than people without a dog of their own.
6. Dogs Make You More Attractive
If you’re looking for a date, it might be time to get a dog. A dog’s presence may make people appear more likable and attractive.
In a series of studies, men were more likely to get a woman’s phone number when they had a dog with them. In another study, researchers asked individuals to rate people in photographs. The individuals found that people looked happier and more relaxed when they appeared with a dog.
A study by Pet Wingman found that men and women swipe right more often in dating apps on profile photos with dogs. Women benefited more than men with dogs in their profiles.
7. Dogs Make Us More Social
Walking with a dog can make us more approachable and give people a conversation starter. Think about how many times you’ve talked with other people, whether they’re your neighbors or new friends at the dog park.
Researchers have found that about 40% of dog owners had an easier time making friends. Dogs can provide the perfect way to get to know strangers and form new friendships.
A study at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University concluded that people who have a strong attachment to a pet often feel more connected in their human relationships and their communities.
8. Dogs Are Made to Be Irrestible
There’s a reason why puppies are so irresistible. A dog’s facial features possess an “infant schema.” These “social releasers” can trigger an innate caregiver response in humans. So the next time you can’t stop watching that dog video, know those big eyes and floppy ears are scientifically appealing.
9. Dogs Make Us Happier
Just looking at a dog can lift your spirits. A 2009 study in Japan found that staring into your dog’s eyes can raise your level of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.”
Besides the general health benefits of owning a dog, dogs can be natural mood boosters. People with AIDS may be less likely to suffer from depression if they own a pet, according to a 2017 study.
10. Dogs Can Have Positive Effects on Seniors
Studies exploring the effects of dogs on seniors found positive results. One study found that pet therapy can improve the cognitive function of residents in long-term care with mental illness. Another study showed significant decreases in agitated behaviors in seniors with dementia, as well as improved social interactions.
A dog provides unconditional love and support, which is especially important during tough times. Though people may think we’re taking care of our dogs, it’s mutual. Dogs also take care of us, and science confirms it.