Dogs reduce disability onset in their owners, a study published in the New Scientist has discovered. According to the article, dog owners “have a much lower risk of disability in older age – but cat owners are not protected in the same way. Unsurprisingly, the benefit is lost if you don’t walk your dog – or take part in another form of exercise – more than once a week.” The study included around 11,000 participants aged 65 to 84 years old and who currently or previously had owned a cat or dog. The researchers then tracked the onset of cognitive and physical disability symptoms in the participants between 2016 to 2020. Dogs reduce disability onset in owners who exercised more than once a week – they were 50% less likely to develop a disability compared with people who had never owned a dog – even when allowances for age, gender, income and health factors like smoking, diet and cardiovascular disease had been applied. The study team also found that dogs reduce disability onset by 10% in people who had previously owned dogs when compared to those who had never owned a dog. So, it’s the act of walking your dog that appears to have a protective effect in reducing the onset of disability risks, according to the study’s findings, rather than the effects of increased socialisation or other factors. The study suggests that this may be because the companionship offered by dog ownership helps to boost cognitive health and compensates for limited human interaction.