Improved human health
For many people, dogs are an important source of love and friendship. There is now much evidence that dogs (indeed pets in general) are good for our health. Clearly, we benefit from taking regular exercise when walking a dog. However, our health can be improved in many other ways.
Improving your general health
A study at Cambridge University found that owning a pet produced improvements in general health in as little as one month, and this continued over the 10 months of the study. Pet owners were found to suffer fewer ailments, such as headaches, colds and even hay fever. Children have less likelihood of developing allergies to animals if they are exposed to pets during the first year of life.
Other studies have shown that people who own pets have relatively fewer visits to their medical practitioner than those that do not have pets. Find out more.
Motivate and encourage exercise
Because dogs need exercise every day (come rain or shine), people become encouraged to adopt a regular exercise pattern. Who needs the expense of a gym and personal trainer if you have a dog?
Dogs as a social lubricant
Attending dog training classes, visiting the vet and walking in the park all provide opportunities to meet and talk to other people. Studies have shown that people walking a dog have far more positive encounters with others than those out walking alone, with the dog often providing a topic of conversation. Dogs therefore can reduce the feelings of loneliness and encourage / enable socialisation. This in turn can increase self-esteem and the sense of personal competence.
For many people, dogs are an important source of love and friendship – sadly sometimes their only source! Importantly a dog can provide unconditional acceptance and warmth. In this way they can help improve mood and reduce depression, thus acting as a psychological boost to our lives.
A telling quote from a report of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (2008) was: “39% of London’s pet owners purchased their pet for companionship, despite having 7.5 million neighbours across the city.”
An early health warning
Recently, dogs have been used to detect some medical problems, such as cancer, in people at an early stage. Early detection and treatment can radically alter the outcome of the disease so is a very welcome advance. For more information follow the link to assistance dogs.
Dogs therefore provide us with loyalty, companionship, love and affection, as well as the many physical and psychological benefits. The least we can do to repay this is ensure that we keep them in the best of health. Find out how you can do this by following the link to My Healthy Dog.
For more information about how dogs can improve our health, visit the website of the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS): www.scas.org.uk