Improving Health by Getting a Dog

New Pet Owners  •   Pam Karkow  •   Jan 11, 2019


If you are teetering on the fence about inviting a four-legged friend into your family, I’m about to give you some perks that just may help you take the plunge.  Below, three benefits to welcoming a furry family member...just in time for the holidays…


Having a pet eases stress. 

Imagine you just sat down at the end of a long day, and suddenly there’s a puppy dog nose resting in your lap, begging to be rubbed.  Not only does petting that eager pup feel good, it can also lower the stress hormone, cortisol.  According to a University of Missouri–Columbia study, petting a dog for just 15 minutes can release serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, all feel-good hormones.  Basically, petting a dog is a simple act with a big payoff!  And the payoff works for kids and adults alike.  Parents magazine shares the story of a University of Florida Study where kids completed a public-speaking and mental-arithmetic task (activities that raise cortisol levels) with either their dog present, a parent, or no one.  The kids who had their dog present reported less stress that the kids who had their parent or no support (Parents October 2018).


Pets boost kids’ immunity. 

In a study published on Psychology Today, parents were asked questions about their children’s health--physical and metal.  Data from 5,191 kids (between the ages of 5 and 11) were included in the study.  About half the families had a dog or cat, the other half did not have any animals.  The results of the study proved that children living with pets were generally better off than the children without a pet.  The children living with a pet had better overall health, both mentally and physically.  Parents magazine also reports that a study published in Microbiome found that children born into a family with a pet develop higher levels of gut microbes that protect against allergies and obesity. 


Having a pet can boost literacy. 

If ever you needed a reason to get a pet, here it is!!!  Have you ever heard of the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, aka R.E.A.D.?  This amazing program’s goal is to build confidence in children and strengthen their communication skills.  They accomplish this by providing therapy dogs to listen to the children read aloud.  Results from this program show improvement in test scores and increased self-esteem in the children after they spend time with the therapy dogs.  Another study in South Africa followed children considered to be poor readers who read to either a dog, teddy bear, adult, or no one.  These children read for 20 minutes per week for ten weeks.  The children who read to four-legged friends had the highest reading rate, accuracy, and comprehension, according to a study in the October 2018 publication of Parents magazine.


It is amazing to me that welcoming a furry family member into your home can provide these benefits.  You can read about even more ways pets can improve the lives of your children in our post, How Pets are Good For Kids.  Of course, adjusting to having a dog in your home can also take some time, so you may want to read up on our blogs, Are You a Pawsome Pet Parent and Finding the Perfect Pooch if you are ready to take the plunge!

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Pam Karkow

About the Author
Pam Karkow

Hi, I'm Pam. List maker, note taker, and avid reader. I'm married to my college sweetheart and we have three amazing kids, all of them boys. We also have one furry child, a golden retriever rescue dog. I have been blogging for PetPartners since 2015, and I love researching and writing tips about how to be a better pet parent. I spend most of my time sharing my adventures at, where I share the ways I am learning to be a better wife and mom--to my two and four-legged children.