Not only are they adorable and affectionate, but owning a dog is proven to be fantastic for your health. Here's why:
1. They reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
While salt and alcohol have long been blamed for increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease, it seems that not owning a pet is another big risk factor. Melbourne researchers found that pet owners had lower systolic blood pressure and plasma triglycerides key cardiovascular disease risk factors than non-pet owners.
"One study has shown pet owners are less likely to die in the first 12 months following a heart attack than non pet-owners," says Susie Willis, spokesperson for the Petcare Information Advisory Service.
While all pets are known to boost humans' health, researchers from Queens University, Belfast, found that dogs are the most beneficial. The study found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and blood pressure and suffered fewer medical problems than cat owners.
2. They get you moving
If there's one thing all dog owners know, it's how demanding dogs can be when it comes to "walk time". Their excited yelps do wonders for our health researchers from the University of Western Australia found that people walk 48 minutes more per week after they get a dog.
"People often think people get dogs because they like walking, but there have been studies where people are given a dog and they increase their amounts of exercise," Willis says. "Often they're reminding you you might feel like you're a bit too tired today, but a dog gives you a look and you go and do it."
3. They're like good medicine
Want to steer clear of the doctor? Get yourself a pet dog. A US study looked at the medical records of 938 elderly people and found those with a dog had reduced contact with their doctor.
A separate Australian study by the Petcare Information and Advisory Service compared pet owners with non-pet owners in Germany, China and Australia. After taking into account gender, age, and income, they found that in all three countries people who owned pets had significantly better health.
4. They eliminate stress
If you want to improve your mental health, it's worth investing in a dog. An extensive US study found that pet owners have greater self-esteem, scored better in wellbeing measurements and were able to cope with social rejection better.
Willis says that this is particularly the case for dog owners. "People in the company of dogs are more likely to have social interactions with other people," she says. "If you're walking a dog you're far more likely to talk to people than if you don't have a dog with you. That can be fantastic for disabled people because the dog almost creates a social bridge."
Stroking a pet is also a well-established stress killer, with research showing that talking to and patting a dog lowers blood pressure more than talking to another human.
5. They increase kids' wellbeing
While plenty of new parents fear the germs their dog could spread to their newborn, some researchers say that exposing babies to pets could increase their immunity and make them less sensitive to allergens.
As children age, dogs are also proven to help them live a healthier life. One study found that kids aged five to six whose family has a dog are 50 per cent less likely to be overweight than those who don't own a dog.
"Children in families with dogs tend to take more family walks," Willis says. "They are also less likely to be overweight and obese."