14 Apr 2022


Does Owning a Dog Benefit Their Owners' Health?

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

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The relationship between man and dog has existed for many years now. Unlike with other domestic animals, there are no studies carried out that indicates how man was able to domesticate this creature despite the fact that it is still the most common animal pet kept in most homes. Regardless of this, the importance of owning a dog other than offering security cannot be overemphasized. With the help of credible sources, the following paper is going to explore how owning a dog benefits their owners’ health by relieving their stress, keeping them fit, and helping them form strong relationships. 

Stress Relieving

The dog-human bond relationship has over time grown from a cooperative relationship to an emotional one. Initially, dogs were used for purposes such as guarding, herding and hurting. This, however, has changed in the recent past as dogs have been introduced in hospitals to help patients cope with stress and chronic medical conditions. If the research findings conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then this important dog function cannot be overstressed. The research found out that more than 35 million people d in the U.S are hospitalized every year. 

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The findings of the research thereby lead many hospitals to introduce animal programs such as “Animal Assisted Therapy” (AAT), “Animal-assisted activities” (AAA), “animal-assisted interactions or interventions” (AAI), resident animals or pet visitation to help improve the quality of life of patients. According to Kamioka et al. (2014), the controlled trials conducted under AAIs concluded that dogs may be effective in improving the quality of cancer patients and others with chronic or terminal illness and treating impaired circulatory functioning.

Primarily, one of the most important factors that made them so easy to relieve stress to a patient was their ability to provide a calming effect (Walsh, 2009b). In stressing settings such as hospitals, the mere presence of a friendly animal can have a calming effect. On the other hand, the dog can also help reduce stress for the accompanying friends and family members. Their playful and joyful nature easily makes one distracted from the core business thereby helping them relieve stress. 

Studies by Dr. Edward T.Creagan and his team in Mayo Clinic also attests to the healing benefit of owning a dog. From the case study of the 56-year-old patient, we learn that despite the patient’s health condition he was able to pull his resources for him to get back at home and be with his dog (Creagan, & Borg, 2015). This experience helps to emphasize a dog’s great power to boost medical involvements for patient’s wellness.

Scientifically it is also proven that dogs help their owners relieve stress through Cortisol release, heart rate changes and variation in blood pressure. The impact of these factors was conducted by John Polheber in Pennsylvania State University Altoona. A study of these factors was carried out in three randomly assigned control groups: individuals by themselves, individuals with a human friend, and individuals with a dog all of whom were put through same experimental procedures. At the end it was observed that dogs were beneficial in relieving stress as they relieved two aspects of stress response (Polhebe & Matchock, 2014)

Lastly, when talking about the stress relieving benefit of owning a dog, Dr. Stephen Stern et al.’s, article on the potential benefits of canine companionship for Military Veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cannot be over ruled. A study on 30 diverse military veterans who were being treated at Department of Veterans Affairs for PTSD was conducted through questionnaires, and the result analyzed. From their responses, most of them agreed that a companion dog may help relieve a multitude of the stress associated with the PTSD.

Even with evidence showing the important health benefits of a dog in an owner’s life, caution when dealing with this creatures is highly advisable. Animal-related allergies, stress, and phobias are among some of the most critical issues that ought to be addressed whenever handling the dog (Stern & ... Peterson, 2013).

Keeping Fit

Another important benefit a dog owner stands by keeping a dog includes keeping fit. This function dates way back in time when human kept dogs for hunting and gathering. Ideally, during these activities, every dog owner would always be required to chase after its dog everywhere it goes. This by default helps dog owners keep fit thereby maintaining healthy lifestyles. Despite the passing of time, this function has changed however the fact that dogs help their owners keep fit remains intact. The following studies will help me prove this important claim (Nagasawa & Kikusi, 2009).

Brown’s study on the relationships among dog ownership and leisure-time walking in Western Canadian Adults is one classic example. From this study, a sample of 177 men and 174 women aged between 20 to 80 years were presented with questionnaires to collect demographic information about dog ownership, a theory of planned behavior, physical activities and leisure time walking. The analyzed results showed that dog owners spent more time in mild and moderate physical activities and walked averagely 300 minutes per week. On the other hand, non-dog owners walked an average of 168 minutes per week (Brown & Rhodes, 2006). The research showed that the act of owning a dog gives an owner an obligation of taking it to walk and engaging it in physical activities. This, on the other hand, helps the dog owner exercise therefore keeping fit.

Another important study that shows the effect of dog ownership on the owner’s fitness was done by Lauritsen et al., this study focused on the whether or not a dog is an effective way to increase physical activities in children thereby helping them decrease obesity. Questionnaires were sent to a sample of 1,218 children and their parents. After analyzing the results, the team observed that dog ownership has a strong positive correlation with the children fitness. From walking and playing with the dog, it was observed that children were able to increase their rate of fitness thereby minimizing the risks of obesity and other chronic complications (Christian & Giles-Corti, 2013)

From the above studies, it is evident that dog ownership has a direct relationship on the owner’s fitness. Most families with dogs tend to be physically fit and active as they would engage in activities such as walking around, running and playing with the dog. All these physical activities help the body burn fats and calories thereby keeping them fit and minimizing their chances of getting chronic diseases. 

The economics of owning a dog on the owner’s budget is one thing that might go without saying despite its importance. When equating the cost of buying and owning a dog versus owning and maintaining physical fitness equipment, it can be clearly seen that the costs are higher for the equipment than the dog. With this in mind, therefore, dog ownership is highly recommendable if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Caring for the dog during the physical activities should always be prioritized in order not to jeopardize its health too.

Strong and Healthy Relationships

The third claim on the importance of owning a dog is, it helps the owner form relationship. Of all the three benefits of dog ownership, this is the most common and easy benefit to relate with. The domestication of dogs by nature has helped man to find a soft spot in his or her hearth. The bond created here is a caring and loving bond, and it is because of this that every time a dog owner loses his or her dog, they shed a tear or two. Different studies have been undertaken to help us understand this important benefit a dog brings upon his or her owner.

This study researches about the Kindchenschema effect and how this effect is shown across species, more so when humans see puppy dogs. Ideally, Kindchenschema is a characteristic mechanism which triggers care-taking patterns upon assessing more or less cute, pedomorphic features in an infant from its caregiver. It is claimed that this characteristic is found in various species including human beings, hares, lions, ducks, dogs, and tigers. In this research, two experiments were conducted with a sample of 24 human groups in both to verify the validity of this claim. In experiment one, 24 participants adapted to cute and less cute human infant faces, similarly in experiment two, twenty-four participants also adapted to cute and less cute faces of puppy dogs (Golle, & Lobmaier, 2013).

From the above experiment, we can conclude that there is a common mechanism in coding the cuteness of faces across all species and as a result of this, human beings would trigger Kindchenschema by staring at a puppy dog. Therefore, from the Kindchenschema effect results, it can be said that a dog owner would tend to care for a puppy dog as he or she would care for their kids. This, in the long run, will help cultivate a strong and bonding relationship between the dog and its owner.

The other important evidence showing the benefit of owning a dog is the formation of a strong relationship is research by Mueller, M.K on Human-Animal Interactions (HAI). The study involved a survey of 567 in the US aged between 18 and 26 years. Some of the questions asked in the questionnaires included: does the participant own a dog? How often were they responsible for its care if they did? What is the dog owner’s contribution to the society, commitment to animals, morality to animals, attachment to the emotions and activities of the dog amongst others ( Mueller, 2014).

The above-sampled questions will guide us in understanding how owning a dog will benefit the owner in forming strong and healthy relationships. According to the results, there was a higher correlation between contribution and taking part in dog related activities. Another finding was that the feeling of emotional attachment to a dog has a higher correlation with the sense of connected to society. This, therefore, suggests that caring for your dog will help one develop social skills such as empathy and sympathy that will help foster good relationships among other people. Mueller says, “Our findings suggest that it may not be whether an animal is present in an individual’s life that is most significant but rather the quality of that relationship. The young adults in the study who had strong attachments to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships” ( Mueller, 2014).

According to Wood and friends, despite the significant supportive and companion importance dogs plays in their owner's life, their role as a catalyst for friendship formation or social networks among other humans has received very little support (Wood & McCune, 2015). It is for this reason that they decided to carry out research that will help prove the important role of the dog in creating a strong and healthy relationship. 

Their research was conducted over random telephone calls in four cities, three in the U.S. (San Diego, 690 individuals; Portland 634 individuals; Nashville 664 individuals) and one city in Australia (Perth 704 individuals). All the interviewees were asked a question about knowing people within their neighborhood. The additional questions asked to pet owners included: the type/s of pets one owned, whether or not they had formed friends as a result of their pet, and whether they had received any social support from the people they met through their pets.

From the above questions, the researchers were seeking to know how a dog can influence the formation of healthy relationships among neighbors. Evidence suggests that a dog can see more than just incidental contact or casual conversation with strangers. A publication of a study undertaken in Perth, Western Australia indicates that 40.5% of pet owners reported meeting new people in their surroundings as a result of their dogs (Wood & McCune, 2015). Regardless of the extent of the friendship getting to know new people is an important cure to social disconnections and isolations and ultimately always results to strong friendship bonds.

From Wood’s research, it was observed that dog owners were likely to know more people in their neighborhood as compared to non-pet owns. All the cities in the US apart from Perth reported that most people whom they met through their dogs regard to them as friends. This is a strong indication of the significant impact which owning a dog brings. In the last question about 40 % of all interviewed pet owners affirmed that they receive some support, that is, appraisal, information, instrumental and emotional support from people they did meet through their pet.

It would be incomplete to finish a discussion on how dogs are important to their owners in the formation of strong bonds without talking about social bonding. The human-dog bonding is explained by the dog’s visual cognitive ability. Visual communication abilities are considered to have developed in dogs as a by-product of their domestication, and as a behavior required for the symbolic relationship with humans (Headey & Zheng, 2008). It can be said that like humans, dogs, uses gazing as social cues of communication. It is with this regard that if you continuously beckon a dog to come, months later it would learn the sign and approaches you whenever you signal it.

Despite all the above evidence presented it is also important to acknowledge the contrary views held by some people regarding the benefits of owning a dog. Some studies more so on the function of using dogs to help relieve stress and pain in hospitals have \come up. As much as it may be easy to dispute this claims due to the overriding evidence that proves them wrong, it is also important to consider them to help better the state of hospitals. According to Murthy et al., 2015, p. 7, “Although the basic model is somewhat similar across hospitals, the existing literature regarding animals in healthcare settings has shown there to be “substantial variation in practice.” 

The variation in practices includes one hospital allowing therapy dogs to visit one evening a week in a specific room; other hospitals will allow therapy dogs to visit nearly every hospital room even the intensive care units every day of the week. Such variations in use of therapy dogs is what makes it hard even for this field to be properly monitored thereby giving scholars the otherwise opinions that dogs cannot help in treating patients. Such studies, however, should be used regarded seriously and better on reviewed for this benefit to be fully achieved and developed. 

Apart from the contentious issue that owning a dog helps the owner relieve of stress, the other two benefits of owning a dog, that is, assist the owner in keeping fit and creating strong relationships, seems not to generate any doubts in the minds of scholars 

The human-dog relationships have transgressed over time and grow in leaps and bounds. From the above findings, it is critical to note some important points to this effect.

First, it is beyond anyone’s doubt that dog therapy works. The studies Mayo of patients’ suffering from chronic illness such as cancers getting relieved by the therapy of dogs clearly attests to this. However, much still needs to be done in this filed both in research and in hospitals regarding infrastructure so as to accommodate these creatures. With this done, hospitals too should come up and embrace the effective use of dog therapy through AAT, AAIs, and AAAs so that every patient can be able to benefit from this important medical practice. Strong policies and practices should be put in place and followed to the latter for things to fall out as they should.

Owing to the busy nature and lifestyle of most people, fitness is one thing that rarely rings a bell in people’s mind. This, however, should not be any cause for alarm. From the above studies, it is conclusive to say that with the ownership of a dog you will be able to exercise and keep fit without even breaking a sweat. Dog by nature is playful and likes moving around. An occasional evening or morning lap with your dog will help you flex both your leg and body muscles thus helping you keep fit. I would, therefore, recommend that individuals who lack dogs should make a point of purchasing one as they will help them keep fit without having t buy or pay for fitness equipment.

Finally, it is on the issue of relationships. The relationship between man and dog dates way back in time. Of all man’s domestic animals, the dog has been able to find a soft spot on the human being’s heart. It is through this relationship and bond that man can train and use the dog for certain functions such as detecting drugs in check points, keeping vigil at homes among other important roles. However, it is through the ability of a dog to see through mere handshakes with strangers that make it important in the creation of friendship ties. Give yourself a heads up when planning to create new friends within your locality by owning a dog today.

The above factors are just some of the many benefits a dog owner stands to gain by owning a dog. However before making the crucial decision of owning a dog ensure that you first get it right with the dog’s breed. A breed dog is your ultimate key to enjoying all the benefits that come with dog ownership.


Brown, S., & Rhodes, R. (2006, Feb). Relationships among Dog Ownership and Leisure-Time walking in Western Canadian Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30(2), 131-136. Retrieved from: http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(05)00399-5/fulltext

Christian, H., Trapp, G., Lauritsen, C., Wright, K., & Giles-Corti, B. (2013). Understanding the relationship between dog ownership and children's physical activity and sedentary behaviour. Pediatric Obesity, 8(5), 392-403 12p. doi:10.1111/j.2047-6310.2012.00113.x

Creagan, E. T., Bauer, B. A., Thomley, B. S., & Borg, J. M. (2015). Animal-assisted therapy at Mayo Clinic: The time is now. Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice, 21(2), 101-104 4p. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2015.03.002

Golle, J., Lisibach, S., Mast, F. W., & Lobmaier, J. S. (2013, March 13). PLOS ONE: Sweet Puppies and Cute Babies: Perceptual Adaptation to Babyfacedness Transfers across Species . Retrieved from PLOS One: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0058248

Headey, B., Na, F., & Zheng, R. (2008). Pet Dogs Benefit Owners’ Health: A ‘Natural Experiment’ in China. Social Indicators Research, 87(3), 481-493.

Kamioka, H., Okada, S., Tsutani, K., Park, H., Okuizumi, H., Handa, S., Mutoh, Y. (2014). Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22, 371-390. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.12.016

Mueller, M. K. (2014). Is Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) Linked to Positive Youth Development? Initial Answers. Applied Developmental Science , 18 (1), 5-16. doi:10.1080/10888691.2014.864205

Murthy, R., Bearman, G., Brown, S., Bryant, K., Chinn, R., Hewlett, A., Glenn George, B., Goldstein, E. J. C., Holzmann-Pazgal, G., Rupp, M. E., Wiemken, T., Weese, J. S., Weber, D. J. (2015). Animals in healthcare facilities: recommendations to minimize potential risks. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 36(5), 495-516. doi: 10.1017/ ice.2015.15

Nagasawa, M., Mogi, Kazutaka., & Kikusi, T. (2009, September 16). Attachment between Humans and Dogs. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-5884.2009.00402.x/full

Polheber, J., & Matchock, R. (2014). The presence of a dog attenuates cortisol and heart rate in the Trier Social Stress Test compared to human friends. Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 37(5), 860-867 8p. doi:10.1007/s10865-013-9546-1

Stern, S. L., Donahue, D. A., Allison, S., Hatch, J. P., Lancaster, C. L., Benson, T. A., & ... Peterson, A. L. (2013). Potential Benefits of Canine Companionship for Military Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Society & Animals, 21(6), 568-581. doi:10.1163/15685306-12341286

Walsh, F. (2009a). Human-animal bonds I: The relational significance of companion animals. Family Process, 48(4), 462-480. doi: 10.1111/j.1545- 5300.2009.01296.x

Wood, L., Martin, K., Christian, H., Nathan, A., Lauritsen, C., Houghton, S., & ... McCune, S. (2015). The pet factor--companion animals as a conduit for getting to know people, friendship formation and social support. Plos One, 10(4), e0122085. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122085

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