The Health Benefits of Dogs

It’s no secret that Australians love their dogs.

According to the Australian Veterinary Associated we have one of the highest rates of dog ownership in the world, with more 36% of households sharing the joy of some 3.5 million dogs.

People with dogs are known to have better physical and psychological health than people without dogs. Just looking at your dog is known to increase the amount of Oxytocin, the “feel good” chemical, in the brain. Whether you’re a young family, a professional, retiree or teenager, having a dog is sure to make you happier and healthier. 

Physical benefits

  1. Get fit! Having a dog is a great motivation to get outside into the fresh air and get active. Most dog owners tend to have better fitness levels, stronger hearts and lower risk of obesity. They are also more likely to get the recommended dose of 30 minutes daily exercise far more than their non-dog owning friends. 
  2. Improve your heart. Research shows that just patting a dog can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and even reduce cholesterol. Elderly people and those with high-stress or cardiovascular disease show particular health benefits.
  3. Stress less. People with dogs show lower levels of physical and psychological stress and are more likely to enjoy their job.
  4. Stay healthy. Dog owners are less likely to get sick or go to the doctor than people without dogs.

Social benefits

  1. Family Fun. For many people, their dogs are not just pets, they’re members of the family. Their dogs share in trips to the park, the beach, family holidays and even big events like Christmas. Involving a dog in family activities is known to have a positive impact on general family wellbeing.
  2. Companionship. Dogs are particularly known in the pet world for their companionship. Research shows that people who live alone, less mobile people and the elderly feel much more connected to the world when they own a dog. The benefits of interacting with a dog are so well-founded that they are increasingly being used in animal therapy programs in hospitals and nursing homes.
  3. Improved mental health. Dog owners suffer from less depression and are able to cope with grief, stress and loss better than non-dog owners. Just looking at your dog is known to increase the amount of Oxytocin in the brain – the “feel good” chemical that improves mood and sense of wellbeing.
  4. Social connectedness. Dogs enhance social connectedness and are great conversation starters! People with dogs are more likely to chat to each other on the street or at the park, and engage in their community.  
  5. Safety. For most dogs, protecting their owners is a natural instinct, and they will go to great lengths to “tell” you there is a stranger nearby. People with dogs report feeling much safer both at home, and when they are out and about.  

Benefits for Kids

  1. Allergy resistance. Exposure to dogs early in infancy is known to strengthen a child’s immune system and reduce the risk of allergies in adult hood.
  2. Increased responsibility. Children who have dogs, particularly those who are active in their dog’s caregiving, learn great skills about taking on responsibility. By taking on a role of walking, feeding or grooming their dog, they learn about the value of responsibility and contributing.
  3. Emotional development. Developing love and affection for a dog is known to improve children’s self-esteem, autonomy and empathy for others.
  4. Social Development. Children with dogs are not only more socially interactive with classmates, they also demonstrate increased trust, sense of safety and self-confidence. Research shows that children and teenagers who own dogs have better self esteem, with a more positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness and boredom.