Can Your Dog Impact Your Health Habits?

Ever wonder why it’s so easy to commit to an unhealthy habit like watching television everyday, and so difficult to commit to a healthy one, like exercising everyday? Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before theorizes it’s because not all habits are created equal, and not all individuals adopt new habits in the same way. Rubin proposes that people lean heavily towards one of four tendencies: upholder, obliger, questioner, and rebel. Each tendency is defined by how a person responds to both internal and external expectations. Unsurprisingly, the most common tendency is obliger (we recommend reading her book, or listening to her podcast to learn more about each tendency).

Obligers are individuals who readily respond to external expectations, such as a deadline from their boss, but struggle to meet inner expectations, such as wanting to eat healthier or exercise. In other words, obligers depend on an external accountability source to help them reach their goals. That’s why when we read this recent article on, we weren’t surprised to hear that owning a dog could result in a health boost, especially for older Americans, according to a study conducted by Harvard University.

The study found that owning a dog was associated with a lower body mass index, fewer physical limitations, less frequent visits to the doctor, and more routine exercise. While one could argue that you can achieve these same health benefits just from walking daily without a dog, Rubin’s theory suggests that obligers would benefit from the accountability a dog provides. Especially in urban areas, you’ll likely have to walk your dog at least twice a day to prevent accidents inside your home. And those walks should add up to at least 30 minutes per day, to maintain the health of your dog.

While owning a dog is a huge commitment, it might just the nudge obligers need to squeeze in their daily movement. Plus, they’ll have the added benefit of moving with a friend, man’s best friend that is! Check out our previous articles about the additional health benefits of owning a dog, and find out exactly how much movement your dog needs to stay healthy and strong.

Are you someone who relies on external accountability to meet your health goals? Would you consider owning a dog, or would you rather have a friend or health professional as an accountability partner? Let us know in the comments below!