People decide to get a pet for all kinds of reasons — but dog lovers, in particular, can benefit from a change of lifestyle when they take home a pup of their own. Suddenly, they’re taking more walks and visiting local parks, and they always have a friend waiting at home who loves them unconditionally. What could be better?
To find out how dog ownership has changed people’s lives, Barkbus surveyed 1,000 dog owners and non-dog owners to compare their overall lifestyles. The results speak for themselves: Overall, dog owners reported a better quality of life than non-dog owners. Not only do dogs help improve owners’ mental health, but also their physical health — and sometimes even their dating lives! Here are some highlights from our survey, some of which may inspire you to get a dog yourself.
Dogs are unwavering companions who can provide affection and a stable daily routine, which helps improve a person’s physical and mental health. A dog can bring a lot of happiness to a home and become an important part of the family. It’s a two-way relationship — dogs rely on us to care for them, and we rely on them to care for us.
A 47-year-old dog owner shared, “Having a dog gives me someone to take care of. I feel good about caring for him and never letting him down. I go out for more walks, getting exercise and sunshine. He gives me more of a routine and makes me feel good for being able to give him a good life.”
In our survey, we asked respondents to rate each of the following aspects of their lives from a range of very poor, poor, fair, good, and excellent:
Here’s a closer look at how dogs improved many aspects of their lives.
Overall, dog owners reported having a higher quality of life than people without a furry friend at home. Our results show the positive impact dog ownership has on people’s physical, mental, and financial health.
The Spruce Pets estimates that owning a dog costs between $1,500 and $9,900 annually, but despite the expense, 66% of dog owners reported good to excellent financial health compared to 56% of non-dog owners. However, since the world's wealthiest people tend to prefer dogs to other pets, it’s possible that the decision to get a dog was often made based on an already healthy budget.
Surprisingly, dog owners also reported having a better social life than non-owners. Because pets require a great deal of care and commitment, it's common for owners to decline social invites or leave events early because of their dogs. So, why do dog owners feel like they have a healthier social life if their pets seem to be cramping their style?
According to the American Kennel Club, having a dog is actually great for your social life. A recent survey of 2,000 dog owners found that dogs help people to forge new connections and make good friends. Research also showed that dog ownership can increase a person’s confidence, openness to others, and positivity — all qualities that help attract friends.
Lastly, a dog’s size also made a difference in our respondents’ well-being. Owners of big dogs reported better health overall than small-dog owners (74% vs. 69%). Those frequent walks and days playing at the dog park seemed to have paid off!
Having a dog by your side at home, around town, or while traveling can ease loneliness and make you feel needed. It’s easy to see why so many would want a built-in best friend like that. We identified over a dozen reasons why people got a dog, but companionship was the top motivator.
The second most common reason for getting a dog was protection, according to 53% of respondents. Certain breeds make better guard dogs than others and can help people feel safer. Dogs’ excellent hearing, protection instinct, and loud barking can alert owners of danger and even deter criminals. Dogs are loyal and brave allies, so it’s no wonder people want them most for companionship and protection.
Improving mental health was the next reason given by almost half of dog owners. Caring for a pet creates a special bond with many benefits. According to the American Heart Association, dog owners can have healthier and happier minds. Interacting with a dog can raise oxytocin and dopamine levels in our brains, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Many people even rely on dogs as emotional support animals, which can provide both emotional and psychological support to people suffering from mental health conditions.
Caring for a pet can also increase your activity level and help you leave the house more often as dogs, especially puppies, need lots of exercise. One-third of Americans decided to get a dog because they wanted to improve physical health, while another 26% thought they would help them get outside more often. “Having a dog means that I walk every day, even in bad weather, which I’m sure I wouldn’t do otherwise,” wrote one 50-year-old dog owner. “I’ve also met many neighbors from being out and about.”
Two of the most interesting reasons we found for getting a dog were to make friends and improve dating. Dogs are instant conversation starters and can help break the ice when meeting new people. Maybe that’s why 14% of respondents said they wanted a dog so they could attract love interests!
It seems to have worked for many of them, as 48% said owning a dog has gotten them a date, and 93% said that including their dog on their online dating profile got them more matches. A dog person likely thinks a fellow dog owner would be a good match as it’s a common interest they could connect over. Maybe they could even meet up at the local dog park. Or, perhaps people think if you take good care of a pet, you’ll also excel at caring for a human.
During the first stages of the pandemic, when people had to stay home for months on end, America saw an influx of dog adoptions. Of the dog owners we surveyed, 60% got theirs during the pandemic. Now that restrictions have eased, some have had to adjust to the long-term lifestyle changes that come with adopting a dog.
Proper socialization is important for puppies — otherwise, they can exhibit a fearful response to strangers — which is why it’s concerning that 17% of the dog owners felt that their dog wasn’t socialized enough. Since a big part of that process is exposing their dogs to different people, it’s likely that the social distancing requirements in recent years have caused a problem for new dog owners. Now that things are returning to normal, it’s a great time to revisit proper training for your pet so they — and you — can enjoy a more fulfilling and social life.
This time spent together in isolation also strengthened pet and owner bonds. Some Americans and their dogs are now struggling with separation anxiety as workers are returning to the office.
It’s normal for people to struggle with leaving their best bud at home, especially if they’ve been working remotely ever since they got a dog. The good news is: feelings of separation anxiety and regret can be eased with pet training and technology. Dogs are resilient animals and can adjust to a new normal — just like you. If you’re worried about your pup being alone, try going home on your lunch break to check on them. If that’s not an option, there are plenty of other ways to calm your pet or ease your worries while you’re away, like installing a pet surveillance camera.
Dog owners have other options if the balance between work and caring for their dog feels off. They can look for a more dog-friendly employer, enroll their pup in doggie daycare, or work remotely. According to our study, 69% of those who got a dog during the pandemic continued to work from home instead of returning to the office, while only 20% of non-pandemic dog owners opted to stay remote.
Americans who owned dogs before the lockdown may feel more comfortable with leaving their dog at home during the workday because they’ve done it before. It’s likely they’ve trained their pet to stay home alone and that they know their pup can do so safely. Non-pandemic dog owners may even have extra support established on which they can rely, like a former dog walker or a helpful family member who’s already familiar with their pet.
Owning a dog is awesome, but it can also be challenging sometimes. The key is to learn to adapt, while also choosing what’s best for you and your pet.
Despite the cost and the way pets can sometimes complicate our lives, our survey clearly shows that dogs improve a person’s quality of life. Not only do they boost mental and physical health, but they can also help people to socialize more. Feeling responsible for a growing and living thing can be a huge source of happiness for many, as well. In return, people receive unconditional love and loyalty — what more could you ask for from a furry friend?
Barkbus surveyed 1,000 Americans about their quality of life and dog ownership. 55.4% were dog owners, 22.7% had no pets, and 21.9% had pets other than dogs. When referring to non-dog owners, we were looking at strictly non-pet owners. For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed. Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting. These limitations include telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory.
Barkbus is a luxury mobile dog grooming service aiming to end traumatic trips to the grooming salon. They currently service Southern California — Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego — with plans for national expansion.
If you know a dog lover who might find this study helpful, please feel free to share it with them. We only ask that you link back to this page and that your purposes are noncommercial.