If you want to stay healthy, get yourself a pet. It can help lower your blood pressure, improve your psychological health, and encourage you to exercise.
Studies have shown that pet ownership can have 'multiple health and emotional benefits for both children and adults', says James Griffin of the US's National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.
Pensioners who went on a nature trail for 12 weeks did far better if they walked with a dog. Their walking capabilities improved by 28 per cent compared with those who walked with another person. The humans tended to discourage each other, and used excuses such as the weather to stop the walk early.
The way dogs can help humans - especially during hard economic times - will be explored at a conference being held by the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction, being held in Kansas City on October 20-25.