If you grew up with a family dog, you already know how strong the bond between a pup and a person can be. They're always around to greet you with kisses and butt wiggles, or ready to snuggle against you on the couch when you're having a bad day. But after leaving your childhood home, you might find yourself missing the kind of joyful relationship that you can only have with a cute canine. If you can't imagine life without a pup to come home to, you can thank your genes for your love of dogs as an adult, according to a new study.
The new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, investigated whether there is a genetic component to owning dogs. The study's researchers studied 35,035 sets of twins from the Swedish Twin Registry who were born between 1926 and 1996. They then compared that information to data from Swedish dog registrations, which showed a strong connection between genetics and the likelihood of having a dog.
"We found that additive genetic factors largely contributed to dog ownership, with heritability estimated at 57 percent for females and 51 percent for males," concluded the researchers in the study abstract. In other words, while the researchers did not identify specific genes which would point to dog ownership, they did discover that there is a genetic component to making the choice to bring a dog into your home.
"We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog," said Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and professor in molecular epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, in an Uppsala University release. "Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health," she said. "Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others."
The study's conclusions also suggest that there could be a connection between the genetic components that make someone likely to own a dog and the positive health implications of dog ownership. The mental health benefits of owning a dog are practically endless, so it's pretty believable that entire generations of people would want to bring them into their homes. A systematic review published in BioMed Central Psychiatry analyzed 17 studies on dog ownership and mental health to conclude that people with mental illness who had a companion animal were better equipped to handle the work associated with managing their conditions. This effect was particularly strong in crisis situations.
But even people without mental health problems can benefit from having a pet. According to the Mental Health Foundation, having a dog to walk can encourage you not only to be active and get fresh air on a regular basis, but it can also help you meet people you might not otherwise come in contact with. As per the organization, "Walking a dog often leads to conversations with other dog owners and this helps owners to stay socially connected and less withdrawn."
Whether you adopted your little fluffball because you needed some emotional support in difficult times or you just wanted a speedy running partner to pant beside you on the weekends, your life is definitely enriched because of your dog. And that's paw-sitively fantastic.