I was recently sent a great video about a gay man who received a brain injury after trying to help a woman being harassed at a bus stop. Previously a school teacher, Joseph has found value and self-care through training guide dogs as part of his recovery.

Being a proud owner of two crazy German shepherds, I’ve always been interested in the health benefits of dog ownership and wanted to share a recent study that is able to demonstrate this.

An Australian Companion Animal Ownership Council study recently reviewed the health benefits of dog ownership with the following results:

“Since the 1960s a plethora of research has arisen proving the value of dogs in various therapeutic settings. Dogs provide a wide range benefits to the sick and disabled, and assist those in need of greater independence e.g. guide dogs for the blind, assistance dogs for the disabled. Dogs are widely used for therapy in hospitals, prisons, psychiatric institutions, nursing homes and schools.

“Several Australian studies have shown quantifiable links between pets and better health. Owning a dog is associated with better cardiovascular health and lower levels of stress and depression. Research conducted in

Australia and Germany has shown that pet ownership is associated with better human health. Dog and cat owners use the health system less than non-owners; they make fewer annual doctor visits and spend less time in hospital.

“Dogs enhance preventative health measures in the community through companionship, stress reduction, exercise and assistance to those who may otherwise depend on Government-funded assistance. The long-term health benefits of owning pets lead to savings in national health expenditure. For the year 2000, these savings were estimated to be euros 5.59 billion for Germany and $3.86 billion for Australia.”

Dog ownership can help on so many levels — companionship, a focus to help encourage daily movement, and a great way to engage with your community.

Frequently when brainstorming ways to incorporate exercise into daily life, one of the first questions I ask patients is “Do you own a dog?”

I’m the first to agree that dog ownership is a big responsibility that can be frustrating at times but for me the benefits of having my two pups are huge.

Not fully sure you want to jump in? I wonder if you have a friend who does who’d love to have someone join them for an afternoon walk. It’s a great way to get to know people.

By DR GEORGE FORGAN-SMITH

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