4 Reasons Why Dogs Are Good for Your Health

image: Oscar, (c) Dr David R Hamilton

One of the things I love about writing blogs is that I get to talk about stuff that’s relevant in my life, where I’ve been inspired, had a wise insight, or learned something new.

I’ve written a few blogs about my dog Oscar and what I’ve learned from him. If you haven’t been keeping up to date, he’s a yellow (golden) Labrador retriever and he’s 11 and a half months old (that’s him in the photo!).

We moved house a few weeks ago and now live in the country (in a beautiful village called Bridge of Allan, in central Scotland). I’m so enjoying the long healthy walks. I say healthy, because I feel healthy with all the miles I walk, breathing in the fresh country air. It got me thinking that dogs really are incredibly healthy for us.

Here’s 4 reasons why:

1) Dogs boost your immune system

Many people find that when they first get a dog they get much fewer colds. The main reason for this is that dogs (and puppies) bring dirt into the house on their paws. The dirt contains tiny bacteria that gives our immune systems something to work on. Like muscles, the immune system needs to work to build its strength.

Living in too clean an environment can lessen the immune system. It’s one of the suggested scientific reasons for an increase in allergies over the past few decades.

When a dog brings dirt into the house on it’s paws the human immune systems go to work, building up its muscles like we’ve gone to the ‘immune system gym’. As this happens, the immune system becomes more robust and resilient, and we’re more protected from colds and other illnesses and diseases.

2) The give us plenty of exercise

I walk about 20 miles a week with Oscar. I’ve lost about 8 pounds in weight since he came into our lives. Last weekend I ran the ‘Perth Kilt Run’, which is a 5k run in Perth (Scotland) and you have to wear a kilt. I ran a rather respectable 24 minutes and 39 seconds, which I think is good considering I hadn’t done any running training and a kilt gets quite heavy after about 4k :-).

I’m certain that walking all those miles with Oscar was excellent training for me.

3) They’re good for the heart

Research shows that interacting with dogs elevates levels of the hormone, oxytocin. As well as it’s role in childbirth and breast feeding (oxytocin is involved in the ‘letting down’ response of breast milk), oxytocin is a powerful ‘cardioprotective’ hormone (it protects the heart and cardiovascular system). Research shows that it lowers blood pressure and significantly reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation, two families of chemicals involved in cardiovascular disease.

Couple this with a stronger immune system and more exercise, it’s why research also shows that the chances of a second heart attack, for men who had one previously, is 400% lower for men who have a dog compared with men who don’t.

4) They’re good for mental health

We’re a social species. Humans need social contact. It’s built into our genome and is why we’re healthier and live longer when we connect with each other. Social network research shows that we’re healthier the more connected we are.

Part of this reason is, of course, oxytocin. Dogs are great company and we bond strongly with them. It’s not at all uncommon for people to talk to their dogs. I know! I talk to Oscar and tell him what I’m up to. 🙂

Human and animal contact also helps counter stress and is protective towards depression, so having a dog is also good for our mental health. Of course, we can also say the same for cats (in case you’re a cat owner reading this and are wondering).


So overall, I think it’s nice to reflect on how dogs are so good for our health and to feel deep gratitude for their presence in our lives. I feel immensely grateful for Oscar’s presence. He has changed my life for the better on so many levels.

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  1. Michele Hahn on August 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    They also teach you about self love!! When you can see only good in an animal when, let’s face it, sometimes they can get under your skin when they tear up your favorite shoes, get into the garbage or bark when you’re shushing them…yet, no matter what, you ALwAYs LOVE them! You love them unconditionally regardless of their annoyances or “flaws”…isn’t that what self love is about? Learning to unconditionally love yourself despite your perceived “flaws” – if we can let go of our negative feelings toward ourselves as easily as we do with our pets…it would be a dog’s life! And that, is a wonderful life full of unconditional, patient LOVE!
    Best wishes,
    Venice Beach, CA

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Yes, I agree Michelle! Oscar has taught me much about self-love (I have a book coming out next year on the subject and Oscar is in it :-)). I love that he doesn’t take things personally, especially when a swan hisses at him if he goes to close at the river. We, on the other hand, ask ourselves why such and such a person is hissing at us (ie. doesn’t seem to like us) and it occupies the mind for hours or days. Dogs teach us to live in the moment and to be totally, 100%, authentically ourselves. 🙂

  2. Jacqui on August 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Dogs are fine examples of the power of unconditional love – my best friend is my canine guru! Hugs to Oscar from me and Cassie x

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 27, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      Thanks Jacqui, I totally agree – and hugs to you and Cassie too. 🙂

  3. cathy on August 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    WE will miss you at the talks at sunningdale and good luck in scotland I live near Windsor ,and met you often at your talks am from scotland , did you just decide on a change , love your e mails thanks cathy.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Cathy. I’ll still be speaking in Sunningdale. I’ll be making a few trips south a month so I’ll still be doing talks and workshops. 🙂 Moving to Scotland just felt like the right thing to do. 🙂

  4. Margaret Lovatt on August 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Hi David, havent seen you for a few years. Good to know your in Bridge of Allan, where I was born! I remember a few years ago you had mentioned you wanted to live there so well done, its a lovely area.

    Regarding your article on dogs, I recently have been staying with a friend who has two dogs and three cats.

    I have since childhood had severe allergies to animal hair which could result in severe asthma. However since i have been exposed to this for the past few months I am surprised that I have had very little reaction and not required any medication.

    My immune system must have built up a resistance.

    I even stayed for a week in a caravan with an extremely large German shepherd called Kyan who woke me up each morning washing my face. Previously this would have caused a huge allergic reaction of severe conjunctivitis etc.

    I often wondered over the years why being an animal lover I suffered from this.
    When i trained in bio-energy (bi-aura) I was one of the first to treat animals and found the allergies held me back.

    I have found these new circumstances an amazing revelation and I believe that the healing power of dogs (animals) have changed my life on many levels.

    I have learned so much about communication and psychic connection while being in their company and of course I can also help them.

    I have run several bio-energy animal workshops in the past and have been honoured that they have allowed myself and the students to come into their world.

    I am now a member of a pack and learning to be a leader, which is fascinating!

    It would be good now that your local to meet up for a chat.

    Lots of love

    Margaret xx

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on August 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      That’s a terrific healing experience you’ve had Margaret. 🙂 Yes, it’s lovely here in Bridge of Allan. We have a lovely barn conversion about a mile from town and Oscar loves his huge garden. I hope all is well with you. 🙂