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Do dogs make people healthier?

23 May 2017
Unique study explores effect of dog ownership on health

The University of Sydney is seeking non-dog owners for a world-first study examining how living with man’s best friend can influence human health.

The effect of dog ownership on adult human health is the focus of a new pilot study by the University of Sydney.

Led by Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre and Sydney School of Public Health, the research team is seeking 100 non-dog owners to participate in the trial –people who are considering owning a dog as well as those who have no interest in doing so.

“Dog ownership is very popular in Australia with over 40 percent of households owning at least one dog,” Associate Professor Stamatakis said.

“While anecdotal evidence suggests dog ownership is beneficial for human health, there is currently scant scientific evidence to back up this perception."

Our research will provide valuable insight into the health benefits of dog ownership which could support programs promoting and enabling dog ownership as a means to increase physical activity, improve general health and prevent cardiovascular and mental illness.
Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis

Differences in physical activity, cardiovascular and metabolic health, and psychosocial wellbeing will be assessed for three groups: participants that acquire a dog within one month, after an eight month waiting period or do not adopt at all.

Over the course of 8 months, participants in the Physical & Affective Wellbeing Study of dog owners (PAWS) pilot will be asked to complete a small number of questionnaires over the phone and visit the Charles Perkins Centre or be visited at home three times for some simple physical measurements.

Eligible participants will live in the Sydney metropolitan area, without physical limitations that prevent walking and must not currently own a pet.

On completion of the study, participants will receive compensation for their time in the form of either routine veterinary medications and vaccinations (including a check-up) when they acquire a dog, or a monetary voucher.

These initial results will also inform the methods of a much larger trial, the first controlled trial to examine the health effect of ‘real world' dog ownership, Associate Professor Stamatakis explained.

This study will test the feasibility of the recruitment process, participant group allocation and proposed measurement methods to strengthen the next phase of our unique research program.
Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis

Find out more

If you would like to know more about joining the PAWS pilot, contact cpc.dognode@sydney.edu.au.   

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