RESEARCH: Dogs help improve the health of people – and some more than others

Dogs help improve the health and longevity of people’s lives – and some dogs help more than others, says a new study. New research shows that certain dog breeds are more beneficial for humans than other breeds.

Previous studies have shown that dogs, and dog ownership, can reduce people’s risk of heart disease. A study published in Scientific Reports confirms this and explores which dog breeds are more conducive to improved health for humans.


Tove Fall, professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden, tracked the health data of Swedish people aged from 40-80 years who had no prior heart disease before January 1, 2001 (from government records). There were 3.4 million people in that category, who then became part of the dog study. January 1, 2001 was the chosen date because it was also the date that dog data was also available. Each dog in Sweden is fitted wiht a microchip or tattoo with an identifier that links them to the information of their owner.

Of the 3.4 million people in the ‘no prior heart disease’ category, 13% owned dogs. This enabled the researchers to conduct the study of links between dogs and people’s health. The sample of people was tracked over a period of about 12 years.

Based on the data, researchers concluded and confirmed that dog ownership had a positive benefit for humans and improved their longevity. Dog owership reduced the potential for heart diseases by 26%, and reduced the probability of dying from any illness or cause over 12 years by 20%.

Researchers also looked at whether the dog owner was living by themselves or in a household with other people. They included this because a British survey of 1.1 million people showed that people living alone where 50% more likely to die prematurely, compared to people with live-in companions or good social networks. There loneliness is a high killer – similar to the diabetes death rates.

The Swedish researchers found that if a dog owner lived alone with their dog, the benefits were greater than if the dog was in a shared household. For example, the incidence of heart disease reduced by 15% for dog owners in shared households and by 26% for dog owners living alone. The risk of dying over the 12 years was reduced by 11% for dog owners in shared households and by 33% for dog owners living alone. Uppsala University professor and researcher, Tove Fall, said that having a dog neutralizes the effects of living alone.

Researchers then grouped dog information by breed, according to the Federation Cynoologique Internationale (World Canine Organization) in Thuin, Belgium. There were 10 different groupings of breeds:

(1) sporting and hunting dogs (pointers and setters),

(2) scent hounds (bloodhounds, beagles, and bassets),

(3) spitz and primitive types (husky, pomeranian, chow),

(4) retrievers, spaniels, and water dogs,

(5) dachshunds, (6) pinschers and schnauzers (rottweilers, bulldogs, and mastiffs),

(7) terriers,

(8) sight hounds (greyhound, whippet, Afghan),

(9) sheep and cattle dogs, and

(10) companion and toy dogs.

There was also a mixed breed category.


The findings showed that sporting and hunting dogs (pointers and setters), as well as retrievers, spaniels, and water dogs, seemed to provide humans with greater health benefits.

The findings showed that sporting and hunting dogs (pointers and setters) seemed to provide humans with greater health benefits. Pointers and setters reduced the risk of dog owners death by 40%; scent hounds by 37%; spitz types by 28%; retrievers, spaniels, and water dogs by 26%; dachshunds by 24%; pinschers, schnauzers, and bulldogs by 22%; terriers by 19%; sight hounds by 17%; sheep and cattle dogs by 16%; companion and toys dogs by 15%; and mixed breeds by 2%.

Researchers showed that the dog breeds that were most beneficial for humans were the most sociable dogs – the ‘kissy’ dogs – the dogs that wanted the most social interaction with humans. Playful dogs, therefore, have the most benefits for people.

SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd.


Mwenya Mubanga, Liisa Byberg, Christoph Nowak, Agneta Egenvall, Patrik K. Magnusson, Erik Ingelsson & Tove Fall (2017). Dog ownership and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death – a nationwide cohort study. Scientific Reports, 7: 15821 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-16118-6


Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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