Dog Owners Are Much Happier Than Cat Owners – Here’s Why

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Dogs bring great happiness to their owners, quickly forming a bond through time spent together. But how happy are dog owners compared to those who own cats or other pets?

The General Social Survey shows that dog owners are much more content than cat owners, with 36% of dog owners calling themselves ‘very happy’, compared to only 18% of cat owners.

Those who own dogs are also happier than those who don’t, showing that dogs really do bring great joy to their owners’ lives. With over half of pet owners falling in love with their dogs in just 30 minutes, it’s no surprise that those with dogs are happier than those without pets.

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Why are dog owners happier?

The study concluded that:

• Dog owners are more likely to form friendships with people in their neighbourhoods, especially when they’re out walking their pets.

• Dog owners are more likely to engage in outdoor physical activity.

• Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neuroticthan cat owners

• Dog owners are more likely to seek comfort from their pets in times of stress.

• 93% are also more likely to call their dog a member of the family, compared to just 83% of cat owners

• It also shows that a greater bond with their dog means they have a greater sense of well-being.

Elsewhere, a 2013 study showed that dog owners are also far more likely to engage in outdoor activities than those who own cats.

Dogs not only bring great happiness to their owners, but also help them to keep an active lifestyle. It’s just another reason to adopt a pup of your own today.

Why Losing a Pet Hurts So Much

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Calling a dog “man’s best friend” hardly seems to cover the relationship between dogs and people. They are loyal, kind, and offer nearly unconditional love, endless joy and enthusiasm, and occasionally too much affection. They are always happy to see you, never tire of your presence, and never mind if you make a fool of yourself. They are some of the greatest creatures on this planet, truly wonderful companions who feel like members of the family, and the only animals that specifically evolved to be friends with humans.

And it seems pretty clear that they love us back. While every pet owner has personal anecdotes, and the internet offers plenty of videos of dogs reuniting with owners, and as author Kinky Friedman said, “Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” There’s plenty of science to back it up, too. Researchers gave pups fMRI scansthis link opens in a new tab which look at what changes in the activity of regions of the brain when certain events occur. They then offered the dogs treats (they were all very good dogs, apparently) and then had the owners praise the pups. They found that the dogs’ brains showed a similar response to praise from their owners as to being offered food. Some dogs, praise from their owners is even more effective an incentive than food. So, dogs love their human companions and when that love is gone, it can be incredibly hard to move past.  It goes both ways, too: Just looking at dogs can make people smilethis link opens in a new tab. It’s no wonder dog owners miss them so much when they’re gone. As many of us know, unfortunately, humans tend to outlive dogs, so as A Dog’s Purpose author, W. Bruce Cameron, wrote, “When you adopt a dog, you have a lot of very good days and one very bad day.”

When a beloved pup passes away, the loss can feel unbearable. In fact, sometimes that loss can feel as bad—or even worse—than the loss of a human friend or relative. That’s not just anecdotal, either: Research has confirmedthis link opens in a new tab that for most people, the loss of a dog is comparable to the loss of a human loved one, in almost every way. According to Scientific Americanthis link opens in a new tab“symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months, with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average).

WATCH: Here’s Why Dogs Are The Best Buddies To Binge-Watch With

Here’s Why Dogs Are The Best Buddies To Binge-Watch With
As if we needed an excuse to spend more time with our furry friends.

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Why do humans feel such a deep loss for their pups? Because dogs are so much more than pets. As psychologist Julie Axelrod writes in a blog postthis link opens in a new tab the loss of a dog is so painful because people are losing a little life that we were responsible for as well as a source of unconditional love and companionship. There’s a reason that most emotional support animals are dogs.

Axelrod also notes that for many people, dogs serve as a primary companion who provides security and comfort. Researchthis link opens in a new tab has shown that dogs help people get out of their homes, serve as catalysts for “cohesiveness and trust; the reciprocal exchange of favors between neighbors; and increased participation in civic events and social issues.” They also are scientifically proven to serve as a “social lubricantthis link opens in a new tab” who promote interaction and conversation between strangers. Losing a dog, means losing that motivation to leave the house for a walk in the park, losing the reason to chat with a stranger on a street, and losing that easy conversation starter, too.

Also, losing a dog usually means losing someone who totally gets you. Or gets you enough that they don’t mind whatever it is you’re doing and can comfort you when you need it. Research shows that dogs recognize people and can learn to interpret human emotional states from their facial expression alonethis link opens in a new tab. Scientific studies also indicate that dogs can understand human intentions, try to help their ownersthis link opens in a new tab and learn to avoid peoplethis link opens in a new tab who don’t cooperate treat their owners well or help them in their time of need. Basically, when you lose your dog, you lose your back up, too.

While losing a pet is painful and overwhelming, unfortunately, it can also be a very lonely process, as many people don’t understand the feeling of loss and don’t recognize that the grieving process for a pet can be as long as that for a human. Because of that, the community support typically associated with death is absent when a pet dies. Typically, friends aren’t dropping off hot dishes or sending bereavement cards. To make matters worse, grieving owners may feel embarrassed over the extent of their own heartbreak and feel ashamed to reach out to friends for comfort.

If you have lost a pet, take time to grieve. Find a support group locally or check out these websites: the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavementthis link opens in a new tab; and the Pet Loss Grief Supportthis link opens in a new tab website. If a friend has lost a pet, take the loss seriously. Consider sending a sympathy card or bringing them some food as you would for someone who has lost a human friend or family member—even if you don’t fully understand their grief. This is about your friend’s loss, not your feelings about pets, after all. While there’s no easy way to help alleviate someone else’s overwhelming grief, at least we can make every effort not to make things worse by telling someone it was “only a dog.” As any pet owner will tell you, there’s no such thing.

8 Physical And Mental Health Benefits Of Owning A Dog

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We can thank our dogs for many things – laughs, companionship and muddy paw prints on the carpet included. But do you ever stop and think about the more long-term impacts that owning a dog can have on your physical and mental health?

This National Love Your Pet Day (20th February), we are thanking our pets for the health benefits they bring to our lives, from exercise to increasing confidence.

8 mental and physical health benefits of owning a dog

1. You might visit the doctor less

An Australian survey found that dog owners make fewer visits to the GP in a year and are less likely to be on medication for heart problems or sleep issues.

2. You could be less anxious

Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale, Mars Petcare Scientific Advisor, says: “Several studies have found that interacting with pet dogs or therapy dogs is associated with reductions in the stress hormone cortisol and reductions in self-reported anxiety.”

2. You could have lower risk of cardiovascular disease

A nationwide 2017 study in Sweden found that owning a dog could be beneficial in reducing the risk of the owner developing cardiovascular disease, thanks to having increased motivation to exercise and a non-human social support network. Interestingly, the study found that owning hunting breeds lowered the risk the most.

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3. You are more sociable

An American study, which looked at three factors of being sociable – getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks – found that dog owners are five times more likely to know people in their community. They found that dogs, acting as companions, helped owners be more sociable on every level, from one-off interactions to the development of deep friendships.

4. You might live longer

In the Waltham Pocket Book of Human-Animal Interactions there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the physical benefits of having a dog can lead to a longer, healthier life. Section 8 reads: “The many health benefits of regular physical activity are well documented, and include lower rates of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer.”

5. You have higher self-esteem

2017 study by the University of Liverpool found that growing up with a dog can increase self-esteem in children. It also found young people with pets to be less lonely and have enhanced social skills. Lead author, Rebecca Purewal, states: “Critical ages for the impact of pet ownership on self-esteem, appear to be greatest for children under 6, and preadolescents and adolescents over 10.”

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6. You exercise more

A 2019 study by Lintbells found the average dog owner walks 870 miles every 12 months with their pets. That equates to just four miles less than the distance between John o’Groats in Scotland and Land’s End in Cornwall. Just over half of the 2,000 British adults surveyed owned a dog, and they walk, on average, more than 21 miles a week – 17 of which are with their pet. That’s around seven miles more than non dog owners who only clock up 14 miles a week.

7. Children miss less school

Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale says: “Having pets in the home has been linked to enhanced immune function in children, as evidenced by better school attendance rates due to fewer illness-related absences. The effect was particularly strong for younger children (five to eight-years-old) and, in some cases amounted to nearly three extra weeks of school attendance for children with pets.”

8. You are less likely to be lonely

Studies have shown that, out of any other pet, dogs have the strongest connection to loneliness, mainly because they are on show a lot more. Over 80% 0f people who took part in Mars Petcare’s 2018 research said that, just one month after getting a dog, they felt a lot less lonely.