Will having a dog *actually* make you happier?

She says that after working at a psychiatric rehabilitation facility for adults experiencing mental illnesses, and having a resident dog there, she has seen the benefits of having access to and engaging with a dog. 

From her research and other scientific studies, Maroney says dogs can provide the following benefits: 

  • Emotional support
  • Improvement in mood
  • Stress relief and relaxation
  • Increased feelings of positivity
  • Increased feelings of connectivity
  • Improved motivation, in particular to exercise
  • Help with socialisation
  • A sense of companionship and protection
  • Reduced feelings of loneliness and boredom.

Just to name a few…

“My research was mainly focused on benefits of owning a pet dog on people experiencing mental illnesses, however the findings of my studies that I undertook also showed that very similar benefits were also experienced by those that do not have a mental illness,” she notes. 

Dr Farbotko adds: “There’s a lot of research that says petting an animal releases a lot of those feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin. It’s kind of like the love hormone that makes us feel better and more relaxed. And that has flow-on effects, it can lower your heart rate, make your muscles less tense. They can just bring a lot of good.”

Looks like science is all yay, no nay, for dogs.

The downsides of having a dog. 

Look, having a dog isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, let me tell you.

So to help keep things balanced here — this is a very serious investigation, after all — I’ve compiled a list of the pain-in-the-arse downsides of having a dog. 

  • The financial cost. First, if you’re choosing to buy from a breeder, the designer dogs can set you back thousands of dollars. A friend of mine recently purchased her French Bulldog for $9,000… Then you have to consider the financial cost throughout the dog’s life. There’s the food, the toilet mats if relevant, the heartworm and tick medication, the grooming, the toys, the leads, the vet bills, the de-sexing surgery, plus any other future medical dramas. I’m part of a breed-specific Facebook group related to my own dog, and one of the owners in the group had to raise thousands to fund the dog’s $40,000 medical bill after it was hit by a car (yes, you read that number correctly).
  • The puppy stage is difficult. And it takes forever. You have to toilet train them, make sure they don’t turn into little s**theads, deal with their constant zoomies around the house, and teach them not to chew or ruin your favourite household items.
  • They can smell, and many breeds shed hair (except for the various varieties of oodles that are *meant to be* hypoallergenic and non-shedding, though you truly never know what you’re going to get).
  • Dealing with other dog owners can be super annoying. Just like parents, they’re all FULL of opinions. I once had a dog owner at the dog park bristle at me when I told her I bought my dog’s collar and lead from Kmart. Her dog looked like it had stepped off the runway at Fashion Week.
  • Dogs poo. It’s not fun to pick it up (though you always must).
  • A lot of dogs bark, and it can be really irritating, for you and also for your neighbours. Dogs often bark when someone’s at the door, which is fair if they’re trying to protect, but other times it’s just ridiculous. My dog sometimes growls at nothing in the corner of our lounge room late at night and frankly, it freaks me out.
  • They take up so much of your time, and require a decent amount of attention. Your life will soon revolve around this animal. 
  • Dogs die. Sad but true. And I’ve heard that when your dog dies, it really sucks.

But does our love for our four-legged friends outweigh this cons list? For the vast majority of people, the answer is yes.