Surprising Ways Owning a Dog Helps You Live Longer

There are more types of dogs in the world than you think — and they all provide health benefits to the humans who hang around them. Regardless of the breed, inviting a dog into your home could be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Dog owners might live longer on average than people in dog-free households. At the very least, their chances of dying from a wide range of diseases decreases. Here are all the ways your dog could enrich and extend your life.

1. You’ll have better, healthier relationships with people

Happy couple

Couple on the couch | Ivanko_Brnjakovic/iStock/Getty Images

  • People “attracted” to dogs might have stronger feelings of empathy toward humans.

Some research suggests dog owners report feeling more connected with their surrounding communities. One study also says people with strong connections to their dogs reported stronger feelings of confidence, as well as empathy toward their fellow humans.

Next: “Happy hormones” could save your life.

2. You’ll likely feel happier

woman petting her yellow labrador on the couch

Woman with her dog | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

  • Dogs do things to your body’s hormones, and it makes a difference.

Another study suggests spending time with dogs might increase a person’s oxytocin levels. This hormone naturally initiates feelings of happiness in your brain. Apparently, just looking at your dog could make you feel happier.

Next: Sleep is important for maintaining good health. And your dog can help with that.

3. You might sleep better

woman sleeping

Woman in bed | Povozniuk/iStock/Getty Images

  • Scientists still don’t think it’s a good idea to share your bed with them.

For some dog owners, letting the dog sleep in the bedroom provides comfort, leading to better sleep. This might not be the case if your dog snores or acts out their dreams. It’s almost too cute to handle — but extremely distracting when you’re trying to dream, too.

Next: This health condition can diminish your quality of life — but a dog could help prevent it.

4. The more you play, the less arthritis will pain you

Beautiful yorkshire terrier playing with a ball on a grass

Dog | yevgenromanenko/iStock/Getty Images

  • Certain types of arthritis can damage your heart and brain.

If you don’t regularly play fetch with your fuzzy companion, you should make it a habit. Physical activity can help relieve pain in some people who already have it. But more importantly, lifestyle changes like these can lower your risk of disease and early death.

Next: This issue can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, and more.

5. You’ll feel less stressed

Portrait of stressed woman looking at smartphone screen outdoors

Stressed woman | Fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

  • Harvard “employed” a therapy dog to help staff relax.

Chronic stress can lead to serious health conditions, such as heart attacks. But it isn’t always easy to find the best method to solve the problem. Harvard Medical School brought in a therapy dog to help reduce staff members’ stress — and it worked. Your own dog’s presence could make a difference in your life, too.

Next: Less stress means you’re less likely to die from this.

6. You might be less likely to die from a stroke

Woman having heart attack symptom

Woman holding her heart | iStock.com/Tharakorn

  • High blood pressure is one of the biggest stroke risk factors you can face.

Of the many signs you’re headed for a stroke-related demise, stress could be the most influential — and the most controllable. Because dogs are so good at helping their owners feel calmer and happier, it only makes sense they can reduce your stroke risk, too.

Next: Don’t have any motivation to go to a gym? Good thing you have a dog.

7. You’ll have a good excuse to exercise more often

Labrador-with-a-man

Getting outside is good for you and your dog. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

  • Physical activity is the life preserver far too many of us neglect.

Dogs love to walk, run, and play, which makes it hard for their owners to sit still for long. Good luck getting too comfortable on that couch. Luckily, regular exercise — even just 30 minutes a day, five days a week — decreases your chances of diseases, such as dementia, obesity, and more.

Next: You might despise the number on the scale, but there’s a furry fix for that, too.

8. You might lose weight

Woman measuring her belly fat with her hands

Woman pinching her skin | iStock.com/JaoNgoh

  • All that running around, quality sleep, and stress reduction could pay off.

Sometimes, it’s actually easier to lose weight when you aren’t necessarily trying to. Your dog might have more energy than you, and that’s not always convenient. But the more you move and find balance in your life, the more pounds you could end up losing just casually living the dog owner life.

Next: A dog can make your heart feel full. But that’s not all it can do for your heart health.

9. You’re less likely to develop heart disease

Doctor drawing ecg heartbeat chart

Drawing of a heart | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

  • Less stress makes for a much healthier heart.

People who own dogs often exhibit lower levels of stress than those who don’t. They also experience lower rates of stress-induced conditions, such as high blood pressure. A stable blood pressure — thanks to your dog — could reduce your chances of dying from a heart attack or any kind of heart disease.

Next: Dogs are social animals. But they also force their owners to make their own friends.

10. You have a lower risk of dying from dementia

Two trees in the shape of a human head and brain as a symbol of the strLiving With A Dementia Patientess

Trees blowing in the wind | iStock.com/wildpixel

  • People who socialize regularly have a lower risk of experiencing cognitive decline.

If you spend a lot of time alone, your chances of developing dementia skyrocket. Thankfully, a dog needs to get out more often than you’d like to go out yourself. Where there are other dogs, there are other dog owners — and that means social interaction for everyone involved.

Next: Can your dog tell whether you have this life-threatening disease? At least one pup can.

11. Some dogs know you have cancer before your doctor does

Cancer patient with therapy dog

Dog with cancer patient | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

  • Marine the black Lab sniffed out cancer with over 90% accuracy.

A black Lab named Marine went up against more traditional diagnostic measures to “sniff out” colorectal cancer. Smelling patients’ breath allowed her to correctly identify the disease 91% of the time — and smelling stools bumped her accuracy to 97%.

She was apparently more accurate at detecting cancer than traditional laboratory tests. Good dog!

Next: Your dog has a weird relationship with bacteria — mainly yours.

12. You could have a healthier microbiome

microbiome

Bacteria in the stomach | ChrisChrisW/Getty Images

  • Your dog is a germ magnet — and that’s a good thing.

Dogs bring all sorts of bacteria into your home. They quite literally can’t keep their paws off anything — and share all that good and bad bacteria with their owners. Research suggests the more diverse the bacteria in our bodies, the healthier we’ll remain.

Next: No, really. Let your dog eat dirt.

13. They’re your immune system’s best friend

Human body immune system

Body fighting germs | Eraxion/Getty Images

  • Our obsession with cleanliness might be killing us.

The germs your dog brings into your home aren’t just good for your gut. There’s a theory that the more we shun germs, the sicker we’re likely to get. Owning a dog might help you build up immunity against illness and disease. And better health could prolong your life.

Next: Name a disease, and you’re probably less likely to get it thanks to your dog.

14. Your risk of dying from any cause decreases

Young girl with dog in the park

Woman with dog | mbot/Getty Images

  • When a dog joins a family, their chances of dying decrease by 11%.

If a canine companion joins you and your fellow human counterparts, you all have a slightly reduced risk of dying from “all causes.” This basically means your overall risk of disease decreases when you adopt a happy, furry friend.

Next: People who live alone benefit even more.

15. If you live alone, a dog’s companionship matters

Training a dog

Woman and her dog | Kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

  • The study also suggested “solo” dog owners have a 33% lower risk of all-cause death.

Living alone can have major consequences — especially for seniors who find it harder to get out and socialize regularly. Thankfully, dogs can turn single-person households into brighter, less lonely places to live and thrive.

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