Does owning a dog make you healthy as well as happy?

Do you want a dog? Would it do you good?

Most people who own a dog believe their pets make them happy and also help keep them healthy. Is there any scientific evidence for that opinion? Is it just wishful thinking? Can anyone be dogmatic?

Some recent research in Sweden seems to show that dog-owners do live on average longer than the rest of the population.

How could a dog improve your health?

Although science has not yet established the reason for this, many people have suggested that there are two benefits to dog-ownership.

  1. Firstly, it gives you a strong incentive to take regular exercise, whatever (almost) the weather. Exercise is known to be an important factor in reducing weight and fat. It also helps tone up at least some of your muscles.
  2. Secondly, people say that the relationship with your dog helps you mentally. Stress and depression are major mental problems these days. They contribute to a lot of physical illnesses too.
Are these statistics conclusive, or is it a case of the tail wagging the dog?

On the other hand, the Swedish scientists do point out that the link between owning a dog and being healthy might work in the opposite direction too. A healthy person is more likely to be able to look after an animal than a sick person. Another example of the need to treat all statistics with care, as I have written in one of my books.

Do I advise you to buy a dog?

I would not want anyone to take on the responsibility of owning any pet if he or she was not capable of looking after it. That could be due to their health problems or their mental state. It would not be fair to the animal. I would also not advise anyone to acquire a pet if they did not really want to. Again, it would be unfair to the animal to bring it into a home where it was unwelcome. There are too many cases of cruelty and neglect already.

However, I do suggest that you think about keeping a dog as one way to improve your health. Only as long as it is a sensible option for you. I believe it has done me good. I have lost weight and a couple of inches at the waist, in the couple of years that I have had my border collie

A border collie waiting to be taken for a walk
A border collie waiting to be taken for a walk

 

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