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Healthy Bites

4 Ways Owning a Dog Can Make You Healthier

A boy and his dog sit in a field.
(Image credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com)

Ah, the age-old family discussion: Should we get a dog?

Depending on the family, this question can range from being a no-brainer to setting off a heated discussion. Of course, the decision to get a pet is a very personal thing, and there isn't one answer that suits everyone. But if you're on the fence, it may help to review some of the research, because dog ownership has been known to provide some serious health benefits.

Here is a look at four ways that having a dog may good for your health:

  1. Getting more exercise: Of course, you have to get off your butt and walk the dog, but research shows that most dog owners do more physical activity than people who don't have dogs. A 2000 National Institute of Health and Welfare study found that dog owners were more likely than other people to do 30 minutes or more of exercise at least five days a week.
  2. Experiencing better overall health: People show improvements in their health, and they engage in healthier behaviors after just one month of owning a pet, according to a 10-month study published in 2011 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. People in the control group who did not own pets did not exhibit any significant changes in health or behavior over the study period, according to the researchers. [7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dog Ownership]
  3. Improving mental health: The same 2011 study that showed that pet ownership also held psychological benefits. In the study, 217 people answered questions aimed at determining their wellbeing, personality type and attachment style. In all cases, pet owners were happier, healthier and better adjusted than non-owners, the researchers found. Pets may provide social support for their owners, the researchers said.
  4. Reducing allergy risk: Pet allergies are often the reason why families decide not to get a dog, but a 2010 study in Journal of Pediatrics found that children who grew up with a dog in their home were less likely to develop eczema. If you're wondering about cats, this study covered that too. But kids who grew up with cats in the house were more likely to develop eczema, the researchers found.

Healthy Bites appears weekly on Live Science. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips by following her on twitter @1minwellness, and on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.