Regular dog walks are good for both ends of the leash. Researchers from Michigan State University reported that among dog owners who regularly took their pets for a walk, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half of dog walkers exercised at least five days a week and for an average of 30 minutes a day. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs got that much regular exercise. The researchers tracked the exercise habits of 5,900 people in Michigan, including 2,170 who owned dogs. They found that about two-thirds of dog owners took their pets for regular walks, defined as lasting at least 10 minutes.
A study conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia Center for the Study of Animal Wellness, showed that when a human pets a dog, within minutes they get a massive release of beneficial hormones-known to be associated with health and feelings of wellbeing — such as prolactin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Additionally, the research showed that they also decrease the stress hormone, cortisol. This finding is particularly relevant in the treatment of clinically depressed patients. Researchers also found that animal assisted therapy for depression and anxiety was highly beneficial. The patients in this study reported that they looked forward to therapy more when a dog was used in the session.
If you and your partner want to have a baby, consider getting a dog before conceiving — but not for the reasons you may think. Although raising a dog can be good practice for raising a family, research published in the journal Pediatrics shows that children who live in a home with a pet during their first year of life are more likely to be healthier, compared with kids who don’t live in a pet-owning household. Evidence from the study suggests that exposure to pets early in life can stimulate the immune system to do a better job of fighting off infection. The researchers found that kids who grew up in a dog-owning home not only had 41 percent fewer ear infections (in comparison to kids from non-dog owning homes) and 31 perfect fewer respiratory tract infections.