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New leash on life: study looks at health impact of dog ownership

How does living with a pooch influence a person's health?

That’s the question at the centre of a new University of Sydney study.

Study lead associate professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the Charles Perkins Centre and Sydney School of Public Health, said over 40 per cent of Australian households include at least one dog, and while anecdotal evidence suggests dog ownership is beneficial for human health, there is currently scant scientific evidence to back up this perception.

The Physical & Affective Wellbeing Study of dog owners (known by the glorious backronym PAWS) study will assess physical activity, cardiovascular and metabolic health, and psychosocial wellbeing for three groups: participants that acquire a dog within one month, after an eight-month waiting period or do not adopt at all.

Participants 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.

The initial results will inform the methods of a larger controlled trial to examine the health effect of real world dog ownership.

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

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