Are dogs good for your health?
A study in Sweden proves what gundog owners already knew
You might have seen a rather pleasing story that appeared in the papers last November.
According to a study of 3.4million Swedes, dog owners have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who don’t have a canine companion. Even more significant, ownership of a hunting breed gave the greatest benefit.
Curiously, none of the reports of this study that I read seemed to consider that owning a hunting breed was only part of the reason why these people live longer. It is obvious that simply patting your setter isn’t going to do you a lot of good. It is what you do with your hunting dog that counts.
Hunting (shooting) in Sweden is a very different pursuit from ours. The quarry is invariably wild and its pursuit usually involves a great deal of walking. I once spent three days in Sweden hunting willow grouse. We covered a huge area, working with a combination of Irish red setters and cocker spaniels, but didn’t bag a single bird.
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However, I’m sure that we came off the hill a great deal fitter than we started. Thus it is no wonder that owners of hunting dogs are long-lived and less likely to suffer heart attacks, as they are much fitter than those who have a chihuahua (Sweden’s fifth most popular breed) or a Cavalier King Charles spaniel (seventh).
Dogs don’t mind if you come home smelling of another dog
Not all the papers took this story too seriously and I was amused by Dr Phil Hammond’s light-hearted comments published in the Telegraph. He considered the many plus points of dog ownership, from the return of unconditional love to expanding your social circle. He pointed out: “Your partner might not look at you, but a dog will — and it’ll keep looking until you take it out for a walk… dogs don’t mind if you get their name wrong or come home smelling of another dog.” However, I enjoyed most his conclusion: “In my experience, for 90 per cent of symptoms you’re better off with a dog than a doctor.”