Dogs Keep Older Humans Healthy

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There is much evidence in the scientific community that links dog ownership to improved health.  One of the ‘problems’ with many of the studies is that of a small sample size.  In essence, the study might indicate a linkage between do ownership and improved health, but the relatively small number of people/dogs that participate in the study make it ‘harder’ to make broad inferences across an entire population.

Dogs Keep Older Humans Healthy

A recent study published in the periodical The Gerontologist entitled “Dog Walking, the Human–Animal Bond and Older Adults’ Physical Health”, by Johnson, et al, looked at a large sample set (n = 771) of data to conclude that walking with a dog will yield a whole list of health benefits for older adults.   Some of the key conclusions made by the authors include the fact that dog walking is linked to:


  • A lower body mass index (BMI)
  • An increased frequency of moderate and intense exercise
  • A reduction in the number of doctor visits
  • Fewer limitations of daily living activities and an increase in social benefits


Not surprisingly, the study authors also determined that senior adults with the strongest human-canine bond were more likely to walk their dog more often and walk for longer intervals.


On the other hand, and in contradiction to what I have read before, the study did not find a strong correlation between merely having a dog and improved physical health or health behaviors.


As it relates to the high cost of health care, the authors stated:

“These results can provide a basis and an impetus for medical professionals to recommend dog ownership and dog walking to their middle-aged and older patients. These individual health benefits may translate to reduced health care expenditures for older adults at the societal level”.  The authors continued to say: “Retirement communities could also be encouraged to incorporate more pet-friendly policies, including dog walking trails and dog exercise areas so that their residents could access the health benefits provided by interactions with dogs, and dog walking could be easier for dog owners.”


Fundamentally, the study supports the idea that regular exercise can be a major defense against disease and a major facilitator of an active and healthy life. The fact that having a dog in a home can increase the likelihood of regular exercise is one of the reasons that dogs are so wonderful and great to have as part of the family.  I would also suggest that, even though the study focused on older adults (aged 50 and older), the overall results would likely apply to people of all ages.  The bottom line is that if you are in search of good health, whatever your age might be, consider adding a dog to your family.  And if you already have a dog, then make sure to get off of your butt and walk with your mutt!


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  1. I’ve now made it to “older adult” as I am over 50! Therefore, as a targeted population, I’d have to agree with the study. 😉
    Marcia Weiser recently posted…John Stamos hilariously gets mistaken for Rob Lowe while on vacation — See his reaction!My Profile

  2. We think a dog keeps people in much better condition as you need to let it in and out, walk it, feed it, you can’t just stay in bed all day. That being said, cats are also helpful for those that really can’t be walking a dog because they need to be fed, their litter boxes need scooping, etc. Both cats and dogs provide good companionship to help prevent being lonely.
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  3. We definitely credit Bentley and Pierre for getting us out walking every day. It is too easy to become a computer potato! LOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Tripawds ~ Living Life on 3 PawsMy Profile

  4. No doubt – dogs are the best exercise partners in the world!
    KB recently posted…Pupdate on R – 3 weeks post-CUE surgeryMy Profile

  5. I know that having the dogs is definitely what keeps me more active. It would be too easy for me to get lazy if I didn’t have them as motivation. I agree that retirement communities should definitely be pet friendly. I was recently visiting an elderly aunt and her community allows dogs which I think is great (even though it seemed to cause some issues with people not cleaning up after them – go figure!).
    Jan K recently posted…Fighting K9 Cancer Through Healthy Living II – (Part 4) Supplements and Immune System BoostersMy Profile

  6. Seeing as how I’ve spent the last 57+ years of my life with at least one dog – with only a few short months “break” from time to time – I can definitely attest to the benefits of having a dog in one’s life through all stages of life, either as the dog’s human sibling or human parent. As I’ve gone through one decade to another, my health has remained consistently stable/excellent, and I’ve rarely been to the doctor for more than my semi-annual cholesterol and TSH blood tests. Hubby, on the other hand, prefers to be a recliner potato (which drives me nuts at times!); and his health, while not on the critical list by any means, certainly could stand improvement.
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  7. I definitely get more exercise because of my dog, and from what I’ve seen I think a lot of other dog owners are the same way. For me there’s nothing quite like having Laika as an exercise partner; she never complains and she’s way more enthusiastic about it than anyone else I know.
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  8. I may snarl and grumble some mornings but by mid day I am so grateful to have them in my life. They keep me going and push me to do more even when I don’t want to. They are a great fit for my life.

  9. I love running but Cocoa gets me out on days when I may reconsider, haha. I think dogs have so many amazing wonderful qualities and it is the best to have one in our lives!!
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  10. Had it not been for Sam’s comfort while I spent 5 months recovery from a serious injury, I’m not sure where I’d be today. He continues to be my rock and heart whenever we’re out walking (and continue to do so) in rehab. 🙂

  11. Dogs are just good for the soul.
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  12. They keep younger people healthy too 🙂 My boyfriend says he can afford to drink his beer since he walks our pups 4 – 5 miles per day haha
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