Do dog owners live longer?
28th November, 2019
If you’re a dog owner, you know already that your pooch adds joy to your life in numerous ways. But did you realise that your loveable Labrador or playful Pug might actually be extending your lifespan?
Several studies have shown how owning a pet pooch is good for you physically, mentally and emotionally. And that can lead to a longer, happier life for the whole family.
Read on to find out more about the human health benefits of pet ownership – and how to protect your mutt’s own health by choosing the right insurance for dogs.
Physical health benefits from owning a dog
So how can owning a dog extend your life, as well as making it more joyful and more fun?
Think about it like this. On a cold rainy Sunday morning, probably the last thing you feel like doing is going for a walk. If you didn’t own a dog, you’d pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep.
But regular exercise, even if it’s just a gentle stroll to your local park, is essential for a healthy mind and body. And your pooch will not take no for an answer when it comes to taking it out for its daily walk!
When you consider that it’s estimated that dog owners walk an average of 1,000 miles per year, or the equivalent of London to Aberdeen and back again, it’s not surprising that the health benefits are far reaching.
A large-scale Swedish study from 2017 found that dog ownership leads to longer lives as it motivates people to take exercise, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Hunting breeds appear to be particularly good at dragging their owners off the sofa and out into the open, so if your gym membership card is gathering dust somewhere, consider rehoming a Beagle instead!
Regular walking is also known to lower your blood pressure, help you lose weight, reduce your risk of strokes and certain types of cancers, improve your lung performance and circulation, and boost your immune system.
It also keeps your bones and joints healthy, enriching the quality of your life for longer.
Pet ownership is also associated with fewer trips to the doctor and less trouble sleeping – probably because you’re so exhausted from all that walking!
But it’s not just lazy adults who benefit from a spritely Spaniel in their homes.
Studies have linked pet ownership with reduced school absences for children, thereby setting them up for a good education and a great future as well as helping them to enjoy the other benefits of dog ownership including healthy hearts, robust immune systems and reduced stress levels helping them live long and healthy lives.
With all those plus points, you need to make sure your pet pooch is protected from any accidental injuries picked up while out walking. Check out quality dog insurance today.
Mental health benefits from owning a dog
Walking is good for the mind as well as the body. There’s nothing like getting outdoors, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the delights of nature to lift you out of a low mood.
By improving your fitness and lowering your weight, it can also boost your body image and self-esteem.
You might even find that as you walk, your mind stops racing and worrying and instead starts solving the problems that have been bothering you.
Make sure that pet ownership doesn’t add to your worries – get insurance for your dog today!
And did you know that dogs can be doing you good even while you’re curled up on the sofa in the warm? Several studies have found that pet ownership reduces levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
In fact, you don’t even have to own one yourself to benefit. Recent research found that stroking a pet for just 10 minutes leads to a significant reduction in the stress hormone Cortisol.
Partly, it’s about the power of touch, and the joy of feeling a dog’s coat under our fingers or its nose nuzzling our hands.
It’s also about the way that dogs are acutely attuned to the humans in their lives. They gaze into their eyes to gauge their mood and respond accordingly, licking or nuzzling their stressed or sad owners.
They never judge or criticise, rarely complain, and are simply incapable of the mean or spiteful behaviour that humans show one another on an all-too-frequent basis.
No wonder, then, that animal-assisted therapy is becoming increasingly popular in hospices, hospitals, care homes, schools and even prisons.
It involves volunteers bringing in pets to these settings so that their inhabitants can enjoy stroking and playing with them.
It’s found to calm people down, enabling them to settle better into these institutions and function at a higher level. For some, it may be the only form of affection in their lives, while for others, it may bring back memories of happier times.
Nowadays, care homes are increasingly trying to accommodate permanent pets, so elderly people no longer have to go through the heartbreak of being parted from their beloved canine companions when they go into a residential home.
Of course, sadly many such pets do still end up needing to be rehomed. If you’re looking to take on such an animal, make sure you care for it well by covering it through canine insurance.
How pets can help bring friendship and combat loneliness
Finally, there’s another related way in which your dog can improve the quality and the length of your life.
Loneliness is known to be a killer and it’s at epidemic levels in the UK, particularly among elderly people living alone.
Some people go weeks without speaking to another living creature, marring their enjoyment of their later years. Younger people affected by loneliness may become isolated and fall back at school or college.
Dogs combat loneliness in several key ways.
Firstly, they act as social glue when you’re out and about on your walks together. You’re far more likely to chat to other people when you’ve got a pup or two to bond over.
Even if all you do is admire each other’s dogs, or laugh at their comic antics, that tiny social interaction can be enough to break your isolation and keep you connected to your community.
In fact, a recent survey found they did more than that. Dog ownership was found to help with “three dimensions of human relatedness”: namely, getting to know people, forming friendships, and building social support networks.
The study found that people with dogs are five times more likely to know people in their community than those without.
Plus, children who grow up with pets have been found to have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and a greater ability to make friends.
The effect is especially pronounced on those aged under six or over 10, though that’s unlikely to stop many seven-to-nine year-olds from begging for a cute puppy to cuddle!
If you do choose to buy a puppy, make sure you do your research thoroughly, choose a breed that’s suitable for your family, and avoid unexpected bills by getting doggy insurance.
Plus, dogs are not known as ‘man’s best friend’ for nothing. Canines are highly valued not just for easing social interactions, but also for the companionship they offer to their owners.
The Swedish study we mentioned earlier also found that dog owners live longer as a result of the “non-human form of social support” that canines can offer.
Whether it’s lending a furry listening ear to an adolescent’s school worries, cuddling up to an elderly person on a sofa, or providing a stressed parent with some daily fresh air, dogs stay loyal to those who society sometimes ignores.
They might even be the only living thing that does, sticking uncomplainingly to their owners’ sides through thick or thin.
Their reward? Just your company, food, a comfy bed, and more walks. Dogs really are quite simple and wonderful creatures, so make sure you repay their devotion by getting a suitable dog insurance policy today.
What types of dogs need lots of exercise?
So you’re ready to commit to a programme of regular walks and constant snuggles? It’s important to do thorough research to find the right dog for you.
If you’re already used to taking plenty of exercise, or you live in an area with lots of outdoor space, then you’re in a great position to take on an energetic animal.
There are certainly plenty of lively breeds to choose from, which need a great deal of activity to keep physically and mentally fit.
Working dogs have been bred to be active. A Border Collie, for example, will happily bound across hills, moors and beaches for hours.
A Husky is designed for pulling sleds in the snow for hundreds of miles, so needs far more than a stroll around your backyard to tire it out. Take on one of these beautiful dogs only if you’re ready for lengthy walks, once or twice a day at least.
And some dogs are bred for hunting or sporting purposes, meaning they are never happier than following the scent of prey through a forest or over moorland.
If you enjoy getting out into nature, then a Bloodhound, Golden Retriever or Pointer will keep you active.
While you might expect large, athletic dogs such as Weimaraners and Irish Setters to need lots of exercise, don’t be fooled into thinking that smaller breeds will be low energy.
Many breeds of Terrier, such as the Jack Russell, need a good run every day and will be bored and unhappy if kept indoors for too long. Likewise Cocker Spaniels are bred to hunt, they can run and swim all day if necessary.
And don’t be fooled by the Dachshund’s little legs. These sausage dogs may be low-slung, but they’re high energy, requiring a good hour a day of activity.
All in all, whatever dog you choose, expect to take it for a good walk at least once a day. You may well need to get in a dog walker if you’re out at work, so factor that into your pet-care budget.
Surprisingly, perhaps, sleek and athletic Greyhounds are actually a good choice for the less active owner. They do need to expend their energy but can do so in one daily burst of high-speed racing around the local park.
You could even sit on a bench while you throw sticks and watch them go – while you won’t get the full exercise benefits yourself, you’ll still be getting fresh air!
While all dogs need walks to stay happy and healthy, they can pick up injuries while leaping through the undergrowth or fetching balls in your local park.
Get a quote for dog insurance today
To ensure your hound stays happy and healthy, make sure you’ve got the right dog insurance.
Purely Pets is a pet insurance specialist offering 15 levels of cover for your four legged family member, so you can choose the policy that’s right for your pooch and your budget.
Policy benefits include lifetime cover of up to £15,000, depending on the level you choose.
Third party liability is included, so you’re covered if your dog causes damage while you’re on a healthy walk together. There’s also cover for loss and straying, in case your dog dashes off while out and about.
Complementary treatments and special diets are covered, too.
Purely Pets’ Manage My Policy online portal allows you to manage your insurance cover at a time that suits you, while the 24-hour vet helpline means you can get your worries answered at any time of the day or night.
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