dog ownership and human health

Dog ownership and human health

Can owning a dog lead to better health?

This interdisciplinary project examines the influence of dog ownership on human physical and mental health and social wellbeing.

Our mission is to produce robust research evidence that will be translated into making the most of dog-human coexistence. 

We aim to collect causal evidence to determine the benefits of coexistence. Our team is developing a coherent series of research studies, including controlled trials in the community and major NSW rescue shelters, laboratory and clinical studies, epidemiological analyses of large population datasets, and qualitative studies to examine the influence of dog ownership on human physical and mental health and social wellbeing.

This project node will examine following aspects of dog ownership: 

  • The influence of dog ownership on human health, including cardiometabolic and psychosocial health and positive wellbeing. This holistic approach also embraces the effect of responsibility and nurturing, and opportunities for physical contact with another being.
  • The long-term associations between dog ownership and risk for developing cardiovascular disease or cancer.
  • The biological pathways for any effects of dog ownership on human health, including stress levels, positive affect, cardiovascular function, cardio-metabolic health and chronic inflammation.
  • Dog walking, its determinants and interventions aimed at increasing dog walking.
  • The influence of dog ownership on indoor sedentary behaviour and physical activity patterns of their owners.
  • Dogmanship (an individual’s ability to interact with and train a dog) and characteristics of optimal pairing between a dog and a human.
  • Translation of research on human-dog interactions into policy. The links between a dog’s physical activity levels and development of behavioural problems.
  • The utility of therapy dogs in clinical and community settings.

Our project node involves interdisciplinary collaborations that examine the influence of dog ownership on human physical, mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. We want to understand how people and dogs can optimally coexist for the benefit of both species.

The evidence we produce helps optimise all stages of dog-human coexistence, from the mechanics behind adoption decisions to encouraging greater interaction and dog walking. The research we produce will generate important discussions and will influence policy, practice, and public health.

Internal collaborators

External collaborators

  • Dr Mark Hamer, University College London
  • Mr Brendon Neilly, RSPCA New South Wales

Project Node Leader

Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis
Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis
“The Dog Ownership and Human Health project node I lead could have only happened in one place on earth: The Charles Perkins Centre.”
Visit Emmanuel Stamatakis' profile