There are numerous benefits to owning a dog that are backed by science. For example, studies show being a pup parent can improve mental well-being, decrease the risk of cardiovascular problems, increase physical activity and even make you more attractive to others.
In addition, research now shows that entire neighborhoods are actually safer when they contain canine companions. A new study from researchers at Ohio State University discovered that communities with higher dog ownership tend to experience lower rates of homicide, robbery and aggravated assaults compared to areas with fewer dogs, at least when neighbors also trusted one another.
The study, published in Oxford University’s Social Forces journal in June, used two data sets. First, researchers collected data from a large-scale marketing survey of Columbus, Ohio, residents to measure the rates of households with dogs. Next, they used data from Ohio State University’s Adolescent Health and Development in Context study to measure rates of trust at the neighborhood level.
Another essential factor to a safer neighborhood is that the dog owners living there walk their pets regularly.
“People walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighborhoods,” Nicolo Pinchak, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University, told Ohio State News. “They see when things are not right, and when there are suspect outsiders in the area. It can be a crime deterrent.”
Glenn Rogers, a New Jersey dog trainer with 26 years of police officer experience, told “Fox & Friends Weekend” that the findings didn’t surprise him.
“They become almost like a neighborhood watch,” Rogers said, referring to residents who walk their dogs regularly. “They’re meeting their neighbors, and they’re getting to know their neighbors and getting to see what’s normal in the neighborhood if they do it every day.”
Property crime rates were lower in neighborhoods with a higher dog population regardless of residents’ trust levels.
“This is plausibly because the deterrence benefits of visible dogs and dog barking aren’t as dependent on intervention norms or street monitoring,” Pinchak told USA Today.
Researchers have long suspected that dogs provide at least a sense of security to neighborhoods. In 2016, researchers from the University of Western Australia found that the presence of dogs causes residents to feel that their communities are more secure.
The international study documented the habits of 1,000 dog owners in Australia and the U.S. Again, walking dogs was associated with higher perceived safety.
“This natural surveillance provides opportunities for people to interact and monitor their neighborhood and notice unusual behavior, which can help deter local crime and make people feel safer,” Hayley Christian of the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health, lead author of the study, told The Daily Telegraph. “Dog walkers were also more than three times more likely to walk in their neighborhood, suggesting that dog walking helps you get to know your local area and neighbors.”
If you have been on the fence about adding a four-legged friend to your family, this information gives you one more positive aspect to consider.
“There has already been a lot of research that shows dogs are good for the health and well-being of their human companions,” Pinchak told Ohio State News. “Our study adds another reason why dogs are good for us.”