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Having a dog helps you in ways you wouldn’t think of, according to science

Dogs have been known as “a human’s best friend”, but did you know the ways they’re helping you?

Dogs have been human companions for a long time, with them being helpful with activities like hunting, herding animals, protecting properties, and many other things.

Nevertheless, many dog owners have said that their pets help them with their physical and mental health.

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Here are some ways your furry friend is helping you, according to science:

With cardiovascular health

In a 2019 study of nearly 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom found that dog ownership is associated with a 24% reduction in dying early from any cause. Those that had already suffered a heart attack or stroke, were 31% less likely to pass away from cardiovascular disease.

Another large study published in the same year found that people who owned dogs had better health outcomes after suffering a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.

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While the studies don’t prove that the effects come from solely owning a dog, it has been proven that dog-walker gets 30 more minutes of exercise a day than non-walkers. Some activities to do with your dog, according to the American Heart Association, are:

  • Go on a picnic. Packing healthy snacks and water (including the dogs) can be a different activity and can allow for playtime with the dog by bringing balls or any toy.
  • Go for a walk. There are local fundraising walks or runs that allow the whole family to participate, including dogs. It’s a great way to spend time with the family and be active together.
  • Spend time in parks. Dogs generally play well with others, so going to the local dog park can be a great way to spend time.

With anxiety and mood

It has been long belief by pet owners that their pets give them emotional support, especially during times of stress. And it seems like science is backing that up.

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There’s an immediate short-term benefit by being around pets, where someone’s good mood increases. Nevertheless, there are multiple studies that explain how there’s no certainty in how owning a pet can help with depression.

With therapy and emotional support

A study asked more than 200 patients in the emergency room to report their level of pain on a scale from 1 to 10 (where 10 was the highest level of pain). The group that was given 10 minutes with a therapy dog reported less pain.

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Mike MacFadden, a nurse practitioner based in Canada, said in an interview with CNN that “the presence of a therapy dog not only has the benefits of supporting the patient’s experience, but I think it also serves as a comfort to the care providers.”

It’s harder to evaluate how therapy dogs work with mental health, mostly because researchers can’t control all factors for the trial and then randomly assign a pet to the test group.

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For example, a study done by the Vanderbilt University in Nashville provided children access to therapy dogs just before undergoing cancer treatment. The results were that there wasn’t a drop in anxiety levels between the children, even though they enjoyed it, nevertheless, the parents of the child showed a significant drop in parenting anxiety over their child’s pain and ability to cope.

Mostly, the sentiment is that someone understands, according to Erin Beckwell, a dog owner who has experienced arthritis and autoimmune disorder for most of her life.

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In an interview with CNN, she stated “I feel more in control of the situation and less panicked or anxious about the severity of my pain, the duration of my pain, those sorts of things when I have that unconditional support from my dog”.


If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress and give professional aid and resources for crisis situations.

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