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There’s a reason dogs are called man’s best friend—they’re lifelong companions that provide unconditional love, support, and can even help us improve our physical and mental health.

The U.S. is home to 75 million dogs, more than any other country in the world. Dogs are the most common type of pet in America, followed by cats.

Forbes Advisor recently asked 5,000 dog owners what their favorite thing was about having a dog, and the top response was the companionship and affection provided by their dog (52%).

With 200 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, and millions of dogs in shelters, there’s one for everyone. Choosing the right breed to bring home means considering things like the type of home you live in, your daily lifestyle and your motivation for getting a dog in the first place.

In addition to considering the right type of dog to bring home, potential dog owners need to consider the costs associated with owning a dog. There may be adoption fees, the cost of food and toys, and pet insurance to ensure your pup has the best chance at a healthy and long life.

But in the end, most dog owners will tell you the love and companionship their dog brings is priceless.

Dog Facts

  • The top two favorite dog breeds in America are the Australian shepherd, followed by the German shepherd, according to a Forbes Advisor survey of 10,000 dog owners.²
  • Dogs have an estimated 300 million receptors in their noses, compared to humans which have an estimated 5 million.¹
  • Similar to the human thumbprint, a dog’s nose is unique.¹
  • According to the Guinness World Record, the world’s tallest dog is a male Great Dane named Zeus, who is 3 feet 5.18 inches tall, and the shortest dog is a chihuahua named Pearl, at just 3.59 inches tall.³
  • Scientists believe that dogs may be able to recall parts of their day while dreaming, and puppies and older dogs dream more frequently than adult dogs.¹
  • Boise, Idaho has the most dog parks per 100,000 residents.²


Dog Ownership Facts

  • 65.1⁴ million U.S. households own at least one dog.
  • A majority of dog owners (82%)² say their mental health has improved due to having a dog, according to a 2024 Forbes Advisor survey of 5,000 dog owners.
  • Millennials are the generation with the biggest share of of dog owners at 33%.⁴
  • More than half of dog owners (66%)⁵ worry about their pet’s health.
  • Roughly half (58%)⁵  of dog owners also worry about affording their pet’s healthcare.
  • Having a dog is associated with a 24% lower risk of all-cause mortality, and a 31% lower risk of cardiovascular death.⁶
  • Nearly all dog owners (91%)⁷ think dog parks are beneficial to communities.
  • Nearly all dog owners (97%)² consider their dogs family.


The History of Dogs

While scientists are still trying to pin down the precise history and evolution of dogs, we know the bond between humans and dogs goes back as many as 15,000 years when they became the first species to be tamed by man.

  • Dogs have been bred by humans since prehistoric times, most notably for hunting, guarding and herding.¹ For example, greyhounds were bred to chase prey, while large mastiff breeds were used as guard dogs.¹
  • Some evidence suggests that dogs were originally domesticated from wolves, whereas others suggest dogs may have been domesticated from jackals.⁸


Dog Ownership

Pet ownership has jumped significantly in the U.S. over the last 30 years. In 1988, 56% of U.S. households had a pet; in 2024, that number rose to 66%.

  • In the U.S., 44%⁴ of households own a dog, while 30% own a cat⁴
  • The top reasons for adopting a pet are:⁴
    • It was the right time to purchase/adopt/foster because they were spending more time at home (48%)⁴
    • Their family wanted a pet (47%)⁴
    • They were home alone and wanted pet companionship (25%).⁴
  • In a Forbes Advisor survey of 5,000 dog owners, the most common responses to “What is your favorite part about owning a dog?” was:
    • The companionship and affection (52%)²
    • The joy they bring my home (43%)²
    • The loyalty my dog has to me (41%)²
  • The annual cost of owning a dog is $2,500, which includes the cost of pet insurance.¹
  • The most expensive recurring expenses related to dog ownership are dog food (39%) and veterinary care (29%), according to a Forbes Advisor survey of 10,000 dog owners.²


Dog Health Facts

Most pet owners will tell you they consider their dog more than a pet. And as much as they rely on their dog for love and affection, their dog relies on them for companionship, physical and mental stimulation, and appropriate health care so they can live a long and healthy life.

Dental disease in dogs

  • Periodontal disease is an infection and associated inflammation in the gums and is the most common disease affecting pet dogs.⁹
  • Over 80%⁹ of dogs over three years old have periodontal disease.
  • The most common signs of dental disease symptoms include head shaking, pawing at the mouth and jaw chattering.⁹ However, most dogs don’t show obvious signs of dental disease.
  • While some dog food manufacturers consider dental health in their recipes, once tartar has formed on a dog’s teeth, professional removal under anesthesia is typically required.⁹
  • All dogs should have an annual oral exam as part of their yearly health checkups with their veterinarian.¹
  • Dental cleanings for dogs can cost between $170 to $350 if done by a general practitioner veterinarian, or as much as  $4,000 if done by a board-certified veterinary dentist.²

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

  • Pet owners should begin brushing their dog’s teeth when they are around six months old and aim to brush their teeth three to four times a week.¹
  • A Forbes Advisor survey found that 55.6% of dog owners said they brush their dog’s teeth at least once a month,² while 14.4% of dog owners said they never brush their dog’s teeth.²
  • Pet owners should never use human toothpaste to brush their dog’s teeth as some of its ingredients can be harmful to dogs.¹

Can dogs taste?

  • Humans have more than five times the taste buds that dogs do at 9,000 vs 1,700.¹
  • Dogs and humans do share the same taste classifications: sweet, sour, salty and bitter.¹
  • Dogs have taste buds at the tips of their tongues specifically for water, meaning it’s likely that water isn’t as “tasteless” to dogs as it is to humans.¹
  • The taste buds for water are more sensitive for dogs after they eat salty and sugary foods, which is believed to be the case to keep dogs hydrated in the wild.¹

A dog’s sense of smell is a million times stronger than humans¹

  • Dogs have an estimated 300 million receptors in their noses, compared to humans that have an estimated 5 million.¹
  • Dogs are typically more interested in foods with stronger scents.¹
  • Owners with a picky-eating dog should try giving them food with a strong sense of smell, such as canned food, which is more aromatic and enticing.¹
  • Bloodhounds have such a strong sense of smell that it can be used as evidence in a court of law.¹

How do dogs sweat?

  • Dogs sweat through their paw pads via the merocrine glands, which are activated when they are too hot.¹
  • Despite having merocrine glands to help release sweat through their paws, dogs rely mostly on panting to cool themselves down.¹
  • Panting cools dogs as moisture from the dog’s tongue, nose and lungs evaporates during this process.¹

A dog’s fur cools them down in summer and warms them in winter¹

  • A dog’s fur acts as an insulator in the winter by holding heat in and keeps cooler air next to their skin in the summer.¹
  • Pet owners should never shave a double-coated dog, as it removes their insulating layer and can make them susceptible to heatstroke.¹

Heatstroke in dogs

  • Heatstroke can be fatal for dogs. Common symptoms include frantic panting, dehydration, hot body temperature, excessive drooling, vomiting, bright red gums and more.¹⁰
  • The most common causes of heatstroke in dogs are:
    • 75% of cases are due to over-exercising or exercising on hot days¹¹
    • 13% of cases are due to the dog not being able to cope in hot weather¹¹
      • This includes dogs that are not acclimatized to hot weather, such as during a heatwave, or those that have traveled from a cooler location to a warmer one.¹¹
    • 5% of cases are due to dogs being left in a hot vehicle.¹¹
    • 3% of cases are due to dogs being in a hot building.¹¹
  • One in seven dogs that are treated for heatstroke will die.¹¹
  • Pugs, boxers, bulldogs, Boston terriers and French bulldogs are at a higher risk for heat stroke than other dogs, along with dogs that have had heatstroke before, are obese and those with dark coats.¹

How to keep your dog cool in the summer

  • Exercise your dog in the morning or evening on hot days to avoid the midday sun.¹
  • Always carry water for your dog.¹
  • Take breaks often when outside with your dog in the heat.¹
  • Never leave your dog alone in the car.¹ The car temperatures can rise 20°F in as little as 10 minutes.¹
  • Watch for signs of heatstroke including heavy breathing, extreme thirst, weakness and fatigue.¹
  • Provide plenty of shade for your dog.¹
  • Provide your dog with a cooling mat or a cooling vest.¹
  • Owners can dab rubbing alcohol behind their pet’s ears, paws and belly to draw out heat and cool faster.¹

What colors can dogs see?

  • Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not colorblind.¹ Dogs can actually see shades and combinations of yellow and blue.¹
  • Although dogs don’t have the depth perception that humans do, they have better peripheral vision due to their eyes being set on the sides of their heads.⁹


The Health Benefits of Having a Dog

Many pet owners say having a pet in the home can help them feel less anxious, depressed, lonely and isolated. Physically, dogs also help their owners by requiring daily walks and regular exercise outside.


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82% of dog owners said their mental health has improved due to having a dog²

  • In a survey of 5,000 dog owners conducted by Forbes Advisor:
    • 82% of dog owners said their mental health has at least somewhat improved due to having a dog, while 53% said it has greatly improved.²
    • The top mental health benefits of dogs cited by survey respondents include:
      • Their pet offers them companionship and affection (74%)²
      • Their dog has brought joy to their life (65%)²
      • Their dog has caused them to exercise and get outside more (33%)²
      • Their dog has made them more social (20%)²
    • Of the very small percentage of respondents who said their mental health has declined due to having a dog (2%), the top reasons include:²
      • Having a dog has limited routines, such as where the owner can live and disrupted travel plans (36%)²
      • The dog has destroyed meaningful possessions (32%)²
      • The dog has caused financial hardship (29%)²

Dogs can improve their owner’s heart health⁶

  • Owning a dog is associated with a 24% lower risk of all-cause mortality,⁶ based on an analysis of studies published between 1950 to 2019.
  • Dog ownership is also associated with a 31% risk reduction for cardiovascular death.
  • For pet owners who have had a prior coronary event, living in a home with a dog had a significant risk reduction in all-cause mortality.⁶
  • Pet ownership is also associated with lower blood pressure due to the release of oxytocin and reduction in cortisol levels while around pets.¹²

Dogs can help reduce stress¹³

  • Studies show just 10 minutes of interaction with a dog or cat can significantly reduce cortisol levels.¹³
  • Owning a dog can increase oxytocin levels, the feel-good hormone that bonds mothers to their children.¹²
  • Dog and cat owners are more likely to report their pets having a positive impact on their mental health (86%) than owners of other pets (62%, including fish, birds, turtles, etc.).⁵

However, pet ownership can induce worry⁵

  • Pet owners report worrying most about their pet aging or passing away (71%), followed by their pet’s health (66%), travel arrangements (56%) and affording their pet’s healthcare (58%).⁵

Dogs help their owners cope with a variety of medical conditions¹²

  • 84% of PTSD patients who were paired with a service dog reported a significant reduction in symptoms, with 40% reporting they were able to decrease their medications.¹²
  • One study found individuals with HIV who don’t live with a dog are three times more likely to suffer from depression than those who own dogs.¹⁴
  • Dogs helped reduce depression among seniors, and in some cases, helped reduce symptoms by 50%.¹⁵

Dogs help their owners get more exercise¹

  • Dog owners walk their dogs for nearly 300 minutes every week, which is two times higher than those without a dog.¹
  • In a survey of 5,000 dog owners, 14% said their favorite part about owning a dog is the health benefits they get from exercising their dog, and 33% said dog ownership has improved their mental health by helping them to exercise and get outside more.²
  • Dog owners are 34% more likely to meet federal benchmarks on physical activity (150 minutes of exercise such as walking, dancing and gardening).¹⁶
  • Dog owners are twice as likely as cat owners to say their pets help them be physically active.⁵

Dog owners may get worse sleep¹⁷

  • Dog owners are more likely to have trouble sleeping, including sleep disorders, sleep apnea, feeling unrested, etc., than non-dog owners due to sleep disruptions.¹⁷


How Much Should Dogs Sleep?

  • Dogs tend to spend half their days sleeping.¹
  • Puppies may need 18 to 20 hours of sleep.¹
  • 45% of dog owners report letting their pets sleep in their beds.¹


Do Dogs Dream?

  • Experts believe that dogs dream like humans do, and may be able to recall parts of their day while dreaming.¹
  • Dog sleep cycles are about half as long as that of humans.²
  • Dogs are estimated to have dreams that last 1 to 10 minutes and are believed to have a new dream every 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the dog’s size.²

What do dogs dream about?

  • Researchers believe that dogs may dream about their lived experiences, just as humans do.²
  • When dogs twitch in their sleep, it may be because they are dreaming about playing fetch, eating a treat or running wild, however, there is no conclusive evidence to determine exactly what dogs dream about when they twitch.²
  • Small dogs may dream more frequently than large dogs, but they have shorter dreams than large dogs.¹
  • Pet owners should never wake their dog if they believe they’re having a nightmare, as dogs can become aggressive when woken.¹


How Many Words Do Dogs Know?

The average dog can learn over 100 words, while working dogs tend to have an even larger vocabulary.

  • It’s estimated that dogs know about 165 words, which is similar to a toddler.⁹
  • Military and police dogs are known to have a more expansive vocabulary of about 1.5 times bigger.⁹
  • Highly intelligent dogs, such as border collies, German shepherds and poodles are known to understand as many as 1,000 words due to training.⁹
  • To enhance your dog’s vocabulary the following is recommended:
    • Remove distractions⁹
    • Engage in repetition⁹
    • Be consistent⁹
    • Reward correct responses⁹


Dog Park Statistics

Dog parks can be a wonderful socialization opportunity for dogs, especially those who live in apartments and wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to interact with fellow canines.

  • Nine out of 10 Americans think dog parks are beneficial to communities.⁷
  • Americans cite the top three benefits dog parks provide as follows:
    • Offers dogs a safe space to roam (60%)⁷
    • Provides socialization for dogs (39%)⁷
    • Provides an opportunity for owners to be active with their dogs (36%)⁷
  • Pet owners should ensure their dog is age-appropriate (above 4 months old), up-to-date on vaccinations and has a collar with tags before taking them to the dog park.¹
  • Owners should also avoid bringing treats to the dog park, as dogs can become aggressive around food.¹

Cities with the most and least dog parks

  • Boise, Idaho has the most dog parks per 100,000 residents (7.6), and Cleveland, Ohio has the least (0.3).²
  • Seven of the 10 cities with the most dog parks are located in the West:
    • Boise, Idaho (7.6)²
    • Portland, Oregon (6)²
    • San Francisco (5.2)²
    • Henderson, Nevada (5.1)²
    • Sacramento, California (4.4)²
    • Las Vegas (3.8)²
    • Chula Vista, California (2.9)²
  • Texas is home to three of the 10 cities with the fewest number of dog parks per 100,00 residents:
    • Tie: Garland and Fort Worth (both have 0.4)²
    • Arlington (0.5)²

Find The Best Pet Insurance Companies Of 2024


Sources:

  1. American Kennel Club
  2. Forbes Advisor
  3. Guinness World Record
  4. American Pet Products Association
  5. American Psychiatric Association
  6. American Heart Association
  7. National Recreation And Park Association
  8. Britannica
  9. Veterinary Centers Of America
  10. Animal Emergency Service
  11. The Kennel Club
  12. John Hopkins Medicine
  13. Sage Journals
  14. Journal Of Medical Internet Research
  15. Wiley Online Library
  16. Science Daily
  17. Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International

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Last Update: June 21, 2024

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