Should You Get a Dog? Benefits of Having a Dog

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
happy dog

If you’re considering getting a pet, it’s a good time to explore the benefits of having a dog.  

It’s true canines make great companions. They provide affection, act as playmates, and forge powerful bonds with us. There are other important but less apparent benefits as well, however, such as their impact on our mental health. 

Of course, before you adopt a pet, you need to make sure you’re prepared for the responsibilities (choosing healthy dog food, budgeting for the costs of care, etc.).  

If you’re ready, though, there are many benefits of owning a dog that can positively affect your life.  

Benefits of Having a Dog 

Over 48 million households in the United States have dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Here are some potential reasons why canines are such popular pets.  

Companionship

Perhaps the best benefit of owning a dog is they can be great companions. Whether it’s cuddling on the couch, enjoying walks together, or playing fun games, many canines are social creatures that want to bond with their owners.  

Indeed, both humans and dogs seek attachment for security and comfort, which may explain why so many people love having them as pets.*   

Additionally, if you have a family and are wondering if dogs are good for kids, canines can make great companions for children as well.   

Decreased Loneliness

Companion animals like dogs are shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in people. When people are able to care for another being, it may create a connection and sense of purpose.  

Caring for others can also reduce depression, improve health and limit vulnerability to chronic disease.* In this way, having a dog may be especially helpful for seniors who live alone.  

More Social Connections

Having a dog can create opportunities to meet other people.  

In a survey of residents across different cities, pet owners were significantly more likely to get to know people in their neighborhood than non-pet owners.   

Whether it’s walking your pet or taking them for a romp at the dog park, having a canine provides the chance to make acquaintances and reduce social isolation.   

Less Stress

If you’re wondering, “What are the benefits of having a dog?”, one thing you might not have considered is a pet’s impact on your stress levels.  

Dogs can reduce stress in people through simple interactions. When you pet your canine companion, it causes a reduction in cortisol, a hormone often triggered by stress. This can also lead to improved immunity, as cortisol negatively affects your immune system.  

This is likely why some people with high anxiety have emotional support dogs.  

Increased Happiness

Interacting with dogs may raise levels of the hormone oxytocin. Sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” oxytocin can create positive feelings and boost people’s mood. The feeling is mutual for dogs as well.  

Support After a Crisis

Because of dogs’ calming effects, they can help some people cope with a crisis.  

Research shows military veterans with PTSD who had service dogs experienced significantly fewer symptoms (anxiety and anger) and improved coping skills than those who did not have dogs.   

Improved Health 

For anyone asking, “What are the pros of having a dog?”, there are health benefits you should be aware of.  

Like humans, dogs need exercise to maintain muscle tone and their ideal weight. Walking your pet is a great way to boost physical fitness, and if you’re both up for it, hiking and running with your dog can also be good activities.  

The health perks of having a dog aren’t just limited to physical activity. Blood pressure and heart rate may decrease by simply petting or talking to your canine.**  

Emotional Intelligence

For kids in particular, dogs may help them understand non-verbal communication and intentions, which can lead to a greater sense of empathy. Children who grow up with dogs can also develop heightened social skills.  

Improved Cognitive Functions 

Having a dog may positively impact some people’s brains. Pet therapy is shown to improve cognitive function in mental illness patients, while decreasing agitation and improving social interactions among seniors with dementia.  

Additionally, for some kids, reading to dogs can improve their reading abilities. 

From companionship to improved health, there are many benefits of having a dog. Still curious about canines as pets? Visit our Pet Expertise page for insight from our experts

 

*Case, L. P. (2005). The Human-Dog Bond. In The Dog: Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health (Second edition, pp. 113-120). Blackwell Publishing.  

**Case, L. P. (2005). Benefits of Sharing Our Lives with Dogs. In The Dog: Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health (Second edition, pp. 120-124). Blackwell Publishing.  

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