They are also indefatigable life coaches who simply will not take no for an answer. (Your human life coach probably won’t jump up on the bed where you are trying to ignore them and start licking your face, or bark “Out! Out! Out!” at you hundreds of times in a row.)
And if you still manage to blow off your dog, your reward is a nice pile of crap and puddles of pee in your house.
Meanwhile, the walks are enjoyable.
So you are pretty much going to be a regular walker if you take care of a dog. (Well, there are workarounds for some situations and some dogs, but why swim upstream on something like this?)
Some weeks are better than others, and some weekends allow for time to take the car with the family and the dog to a forest. But often that requires planning and stress as well.
So just like a baby won't save a mariage, a dog won't guaranteed bring you more happiness. And I didn't even mention yet that if you have bad luck with your dog and it gets injured or a hereditary disease. Then your dog even becomes a burden.
PM me if you want to discuss this some more. Virtual hugs.
Sorry to hear, that’s tough. Our dog was 2 when our first child was born 7 years ago. She is slowing down now a fair bit. Used to be a 3 mile walk twice a day wouldn’t even drain her energy but now a 1 mile walk and she’s ready to curl up and go to sleep.
I dread the future decision we face about euthanasia but I am glad she is in our lives. Euthanasia will always be a complex topic - especially when and if it becomes more common amongst end of life care with humans. I think the conflict will never go, there is always more we can to to prolong life, or money to spend to improve quality of life. It’s something my wife and I discuss with regards to the dog. I believe it will be a very difficult and regretful decision no matter what. Perhaps that is as it should be.
That said, your post talks about stress as a cohesive entity, but there's some research that shows two kinds of stress: distress (negative) and eustress (positive). And there's some evidence linking a few stress factors in your post (having a child, having a dog) to better long-term outcomes.
This is a really good point.
We often talk about confusing causation with common causality. (I.e. "active people have lower cardio risk and also get dogs" vs. "dogs lower cardio risk"). That's a good thing to check for, and essential to lots of debates. (For example, early data on charter school performance proved hugely distorted by the fact that educationally-engaged parents are the ones who look into charter schools.)
But we tend to forget the subsequent questions: even if an effect is causative in the wild, does that mean it works as intervention? And even if it is an intervention for some people, have the people it helps already found it? (As an extreme example, hypothyroidism is causative in fatigue and depression. Iodized salt is preventative, but not an intervention for severe deficiency - and doctors already check for treating every depressed person with iodine or thyroid hormones would be a terrible approach.)
Dog ownership is probably both common-cause and causative for cardio health. People who walk/run often are more likely to get a dog since their habits accommodate that, but also a dog is likely to push people towards exercise they wouldn't have gotten. As an intervention, though, it's a lot harder to say. Getting a dog changed my exercise behavior for the better specifically in the marginal cases where I would have almost run/walked, then yielded to inertia or poor scheduling. For people who don't lie near that margin, it's much less obvious what effect a dog might have.
Non-dog owners often complain about how much work a dog would be, but I find the time spent walking and playing with my dogs far more enjoyable and rewarding than most things.
I can walk my dog, enjoy nature and just let my mind wander off to whatever it finds most interesting at that point. I don't attempt to control my thoughts, i simply let them wander.
In a way i guess it's like meditation, and yes, i also enjoy walking in the rain, perhaps even more than in fair weather - though 0C and sleet is testing my patience :)
It seems like a tautology but you have to actually enjoy interacting with dogs to find dog ownership enjoyable and rewarding. Many people just don't find any sort of joy in a dog's company. Personally, I don't really care to be being around dogs, I'd strongly prefer to take walks myself (and I do). The more time I spend with friend's dogs the more I dislike them.
However I absolutely love being around cats and few things are more enjoyable than a cat in my lap.
Cats are easier in some ways (self cleaning, no walking) but they can be a hand full as they can get EVERYWHERE. Nothing is safe from them and they love to play and need attention just as much as a dog. So if you don't play with them, they will find things to play with. That is why they love knocking shit over; they're entertaining themselves and maybe sending us a hint. I kick myself for not leash training them and taking them out with the dogs. The neighbor walks her dog and cat together and the cat seems to enjoy it as much as the dog.
Now I own two dogs and the cat. The dogs know when it's the time to go out for a walk so I work on side projects at home (coding) between walks. Now it's over, since the cat would come over the keyboard and push her head on my mouse-hand for petting. I can't say no so it became a much needed stress-relief and natural pause from working. I wonder if that accounts into survival studies.
BTW, give dogs a chance :)
I like to take walks myself too, but in walkable districts downtown usually. I can't take a dog there, because that would require taking a dog on the subway, which isn't allowed (thankfully). I honestly don't see how dogs even make any sense in a city for people who don't have cars. They make some sense I guess as a rural or suburban pet, but lately it seems like every single woman in my city (DC) has one.
Why would you think that dogs that live in the city get any less exercise than a dog who lives in the suburbs or somewhere rural? Often cities are more walkable than the alternative.
You can't take dogs on the train. So if your apartment is in a nice, walkable place and you don't mind never walking someplace else in the city, then ok. But if you want to walk in a different neighborhood miles away that you need to get to by subway, then forget it; you can't bring your dog there.
I don't even know how you'd get your dog to the vet in a city, unless perhaps you can get an Uber driver to let you bring it in the car with you (not too sure about that; I wouldn't want to ride in an Uber/Lyft after someone had a dog in there, and other customers could very well be allergic, so services like this would be wise to ban dogs).
My dog gets significantly more exercise now than when I lived in the suburbs because there are more parks, interesting sights, etc right outside my door and I don't have to drive to them. But otherwise, sure, I'll walk. According to my fitbit I take about 25k - 30k steps a day so walking a little extra to get to a different neighborhood isn't a big deal to me.
Edit: It appears that dogs are allowed on the train/bus in DC if they are in carriers.
With a "toy" breed, that's easy. With some 80-100 pound dog, good luck with that. I don't know many people capable of lifting that much weight easily, certainly not all the single women in this area that have big dogs.
In any case they were pretty satisfied with walks 90% of the time- of course this is going to vary by breed but I absolutely advocate for getting a dog that fits your lifestyle.
These are just a handful of the issues we had with this dog, with many more I didn't mention. After two years, this dog is completely changed. She is much less anxious, eats and drinks normal, and is incredibly intelligent. Non-dog owners complain about how much work a dog would be, because dogs are a ton of work. Eventually you get to a point where they mature, and you both learn how to work with one another, but it takes time and work to get there. With all of that said, once you get to that point, it's an incredible experience. The dog I mentioned here was a ton of work, but I would do it all over again without question.
You haven't met my dog. He takes maybe 10min/day (and that's being generous) (washing him weekly amortizes to ~5min or so). Walking adds time on top of that but is not strictly necessary. If you don't walk him he'll laze about in his corner like he always does but eat less. He won't even let you know that he needs to go to the bathroom other than perking up his head when you walk through and if the "wrong" person tries to let him out he'll hold it until you clip on a leash and drag him out or the "right" person shows up.
What breeds have you had? My family has two Havanese (https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/havanese/) dogs and they tend to not want more than 20-30 minutes of walking a day. Once you get to that point they get exhausted and want you to carry them. On the other hand my dad's Plot hound will go on walks for hours at a time.
I have two German Shepherd dogs. They're getting older (9.5 years) but we've found that their ideal is two 45 minute walks. My partner takes them for a 45 minute walk in the morning and I take them for a 45 minute walk in the afternoon when I get home from work. We're fortunate to have a large backyard as well, so I also throw the ball for them after the afternoon walk until they lay down in the grass and don't want to play anymore.
She has urinated/defecated in the house maybe 10 times in the 5 years we've had her and most of those were in the first 12 months. She requires very little walking and is very housebroken. Worst thing that happens these days is a couple of times a year she pukes in the house, but even then we have her trained to puke in our walk in shower.
She also will just lay in our yard when other people/dogs walk by, so long as they do not enter our yard. She will not bark or enter guard dog mode until the lights are off and we're in bed. After that she will guard the front door and only bark if someone is in our yard. She is great with kids and other dogs. Only thing she is not great with is cats. She's also a herding dog (bouvier des flanders) and will reliably have my mom's chickens herded within 1 minute of arriving at my parents' place.
I'm pretty sure we won the dog lottery with her. I understand you're just generalizing, but let it be known that it's possible for some dogs to just be awesome. I think breed has a lot to do with it.
Dogs are just like people... some will go crazy if not running long distances every day.... other are perfectly happy to be lazy on a couch all day.
Some need the stimulation of exploring larger areas... others will mostly ignore whatever yard they have.
I had 3 goldens retreivers over the last 30 years or so, all quite unique dogs. They varied quite a bit, goldens are really two different breeds, the show line (heavier, broader, longer hair, giant flags, etc) and the hunting line (thinner, shorter hair, narrower shoulders, and longer legs). But I was unprepared for a english pointer. I thought I knew dogs, turns out I knew Goldens.
I thought Goldens were active and liked to run, but nothing compared to our English pointer... not even close.
At the same time, this dog wasn't so cooped up and energetic that he could not control himself, and he napped a good deal of the time. He was clearly getting bored at his sleep-deprived owner still sitting around in a beanbag chair working and barked that this was not acceptable, but his interest was maintained by meeting the new people and smells in the space.
It was just a great reminder of how varied breeds and individuals are. I've met rescue wolves and they are extremely shy, requiring total stillness to get any trust; little dogs tend to be domineering yappers; show breeds are often anxious. Of the lot, the "working dogs" are probably the ones that are hardest to keep up with daily, since they need either plenty of exercise or stimulation or both.
I'm pretty confident that the Collie would be associated with improved cardiac outcomes, but it seems very possible that the Pekingese would too. There's decent evidence that adequate sleep on a regular schedule improves heart health, and even dogs that need minimal exercise can remind you about bedtime and breakfast time. And of course, having a dog probably lowers stress levels (in people who choose to get dogs), which is a straightforward improvement.
Edit, here's some starters:
ACE inhibitors: 5% (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23750680)
Statins: no benefit (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullar...)
Aspirin: might actually be bad for you (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1803955)
It may sound farfetched, but there's nothing in the OP that indicates the direction of causality to me, so it's possible that lower cardiovascular risk causes people to go out and get dogs, or that there's some root cause which causes people to both have lower cardiovascular risk and higher chance of owning a dog.
They also tend to pester you for food or walks roughly at the same times every day, so, no matter how irregular your lifestyle was, there suddenly is a wireless alarm clock all day. Every single day. (Kids are much better at this, though).
In the EU and US at least, you can get this all for free: Sign up as a volunteer at the next animal shelter, commit to walking one of their dogs twice a day, 7 days a week :)
Additionally coming home and having someone who's happy to see you helps forget about all the work-induced stress.
If not, you have a study showing that 'Dog ownership promotes regular healthy walking'.
That’s a factor, but a few studies have shown association with a dog in a household (not ownership) has positive effect.
Companionship is a key factor with dogs and a key deficiency in many people. The human-dog relationship is unique because we snap into the dogs innate pack structure. Dogs want to take care of us, and that brings joy.
I’ve seen it with elderly folks and my own son. Our family dog made herself my son’s training wheels when he was learning to walk.
 I vehemently believe in the "80% thinking, 10% cooding, 10% testing" idea of software development.
You have a wildly optimistic view of the average dog owner's level of responsibility and proactive care.
The payback was huge, and magical. With PAT (pets as therapy) dogs there have been other studies, that show even temporary access to a dog for an hour in a hospital ward shows benefits. Like lowering heart rate just by patting or stroking it.
I don't own one currently but I absolutely adore them. I imagine my stress levels drop significantly every time I'm admiring one at the park.
While it is of course not "magic", I think you're over simplifying the impact of positive factors in peoples lives.
Could it just not be that people who own and _care_ for a dog get exercise daily, as opposed to just sitting in a couch binging netflix all day ?
Recent studies have proved that walking is a great source of exercise, and depending on dog size you get 2-10km walks per day (1-6 freedom units)
Also works great for letting you trespass anywhere you could conceivably want to walk a dog that isn't obviously posted.
Sometimes I feel guilty for being stressed, I feel like she's soaking it all up and I'm stressing her out.
Incredibly empathetic animals.
Then I got a dog.
But no disagreement, if you're a couch potato who is not otherwise motivated to go for a walk the dog will be an ultra powerful motivator, and you're not going for a walk alone.
He's doing much better with the anxiety now, but we're still walking miles every day.
In analyses of studies evaluating cardiovascular mortality, dog ownership conferred a 31% risk reduction for cardiovascular death (relative risk, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.67–0.71; I2, 5.1%).
Dog ownership is associated with lower risk of death over the long term, which is possibly driven by a reduction in cardiovascular mortality. These results hold implications for future studies on lifestyle interventions.
What does that mean? Do dog owners have only 76% chance of dying, as opposed to 100% like the rest of us? I'm probably misinterpreting the statement...
Depends on how many dogs you own. With enough dogs, you can invert your death likelihood stats. Though, I imagine that would mean as you age, you buy more dogs.
Moving to the country seems required to house all of the dogs. Furthermore, the number of dogs would depend on how the math worked on the 76% of risk. Perhaps for true immortality we'd need an infinite number of dogs.
I didn't mean that my dog in particular was hard work - I guess all dogs are like this and which is why they accrue the claimed health benefits to their caretakers.
After a couple of weeks taking care of him (and trying to find the previous owner - who might have abandoned him or not), I was very attached. Actually, during my last job interview for my current job here in NL, I was cuddling him as I spoke with the interviewers (my current coworkers). Not sure if that helped, but for sure, I felt more confident and calm. Once I accepted their offer, I knew I just couldn't leave him behind.