Is your dog helping you live longer?

The dog owners among us already know how much they can enrich our lives. Now scientists are about to put the idea to the test.

Researchers from the University of Sydney are beginning a study to explore the ideas that dog owners are more likely to beat depression, be more social, and ultimately live longer and more happily.

And – according to – the man behind it once banned his partner’s dog from even stepping inside the house.

Associate Professor Manos Stamatakis wasn’t a dog fan at all until he one left a mess in the kitchen, then shamefully hid in the corner.

“I realised he was embarrassed and ashamed and that was the turning point for me”, he said.

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“I realised dogs understand a lot more than I thought and he was trying to communicate with me and I was blocking it… I began to see how dogs could expand human emotional horizons”.

This series of projects will cover a wide areas in which dogs may be improving our life.

One aspect of the program aims to find out if our love and bonding hormone, oxytocin, increases around a dog. As this hormone lowers blood pressure, it would be solid evidence that dogs are measurably good for our health.

Another part of the programwill measure the physical activity of those who adopt a dog. Will they walk faster and sit less?

The study will also aim to find out whether dog owners live longer than other pet owners.

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The program, run in collaboration with the RSPCA, also ties into an outreach program for the elderly, aimed to help those who own dogs but aren’t well enough to look after them.

“We know that with older age comes increasing isolation, and with that comes loneliness”, said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

“It’s a major cardiovascular disease risk factor, it’s a major cancer risk factor, and it’s a major risk factor for depression”.

“One aspect of human isolation can be addressed simply by owning a dog, because of their companionship, unconditional acceptance and love that humans often do not get from other people”.

Are you a dog owner? How has your dog improved your life?