Neighborhoods with more dogs see less crime, study shows

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It turns out man’s best friend is taking a real bite out of crime! Researchers from The Ohio State University have found that neighborhoods which are home to more dogs also experience less crime — including murder and assault.

A lot of this has to do with trust. Study authors found that, overall, communities are safer when people have more trust in their neighbors. However, crime dropped even further in neighborhoods with high levels of trust and more dogs.

Researchers say you don’t have to have an actual “watchdog” to keep your streets safe. Their results suggest that more people walking their dogs puts more “eyes on the street,” which discourages criminals from committing both violent and non-violent crimes.

“People walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighborhoods,” explains lead author Nicolo Pinchak in a university release. “They see when things are not right, and when there are suspect outsiders in the area. It can be a crime deterrent.”

Trusting neighbors watch out for each other

The Ohio State team says there has been a long connection between mutual trust and local surveillance among neighbors. However, there has never been a good way to measure how residents watch out for one another in trusting communities.

“We thought that dog walking probably captures that pretty well, which is one reason why we decided to do this study,” says study co-author and professor of sociology Christopher Browning.

Researchers examined crime statistics from 2014 to 2016 for 595 census block groups (neighborhoods) in the Columbus, Ohio area. They also used survey data from a marketing firm which found out how many residents had a dog in their home as of 2013.

Lastly, they analyzed data from Prof. Browning’s Adolescent Health and Development in Context study, which measures trust in individual neighborhoods. Participants in that study rated how much they agree that “people on the streets can be trusted” in their respective communities.

Results show that neighborhoods with higher levels of trust do indeed have lower levels of homicide, robbery, and aggravated assaults. This matches up with previous studies which found that neighbors who trust each other come together when facing a threat.

However, this study found one additional deterrent — dogs. Neighborhoods with more dogs saw their crime rate drop even lower than high-trust areas with fewer dogs. Overall, trusting neighborhoods with more dogs cut their robbery rate by a third and cut their homicide rate in half.

Walking the dog helps prevent crime in neighborhoods

While plenty of dog owners are content to let their dogs just roam in the backyard, researchers found dog walking is a key part of neighborhood safety. “Trust doesn’t help neighborhoods as much if you don’t have people out there on the streets noticing what is going on. That’s what dog walking does,” Pinchak says. “When people are out walking their dogs, they have conversations, they pet each other’s dogs. Sometimes they know the dog’s name and not even the owners. They learn what’s going on and can spot potential problems.”

Study authors add that crimes such as murder and robbery tend to occur in public places, including a neighborhood street or sidewalk. However, the combination of dog walking and resident trust keeps these crimes from taking place.

The team also found that property crimes and burglaries also drop off in neighborhoods with more dogs — regardless of how much neighbors trust each other. Much of this has to do with dogs barking and presenting a visible threat to would-be burglars.

“There has already been a lot of research that shows dogs are good for the health and well-being of their human companions,” Pinchak concludes. “Our study adds another reason why dogs are good for us.”

The study is published in the journal Social Forces.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. This makes a lot of sense. I walk my terriers every day and apparently, I’m subconsciously patrolling my neighborhood with my dogs. Your article is a good example of a negative correlation, where as one variable increases, the other decreases. In this case, the more dogs, the fewer crimes!

    1. Years ago I read a survey, I believe it was in the Arizona Republic, that asked inmates incarcerated for burglary what the biggest deterrent is that when selecting a target. By far it was a dog. Doesn’t have to be big. Dogs draw attention when someone who doesn’t belong enters a home or even yard. I always thought that it was genius to talk to the inmates and surprised at how strong of a deterrent to crime a dog is.

  2. I am all in on this provided people don’t get those darned pit bulls….I
    don’t care about how sweet some think they are, they are just a dangerous dog and the vast majority of people are insufficiently dominant to control them.

  3. People in my neighborhood walk their dog and carry a pistol. Those 2 things really do reduce crime.

    1. I have it on me every time I walk my 130# imposing black giant schnauzer.It’s always good to have a back up.

  4. Duh! Dogs tend to make a lot of noise when a crime is being committed and they sometimes bite, It’s pretty hard to sneak in your house if you have a barking dog!

  5. I think this is merely anecdotal. High crime areas typically have a lot of rental properties which don’t allow animals. In addition many people that own dogs are also hunters, hence own firearms. Seriously, you could make the same comparison with brands of cars..

  6. Larger dogs I think provide a much larger level of crime deterrence. They are a big unknown for the criminal. I hope they get the message…

  7. They didn’t ask if people walk their dogs.
    They just counted whether or not there were dogs and how many.

    Then they looked at trust levels among neighbors which is obviously going to be higher in a safer neighborhood in the first place…

    Then claim that the results are because of dog walking which wasn’t even addressed in the study parameters?!?

    This isn’t a study, it’s a desired statement in search of psuedo-proof.

  8. Yep….everyone knows me and my beautiful german shepherd. Walk her frequently, and they hear the ferocious bark when she sees people coming to my door.

    She is very protective, but not sure she would really hurt someone unless they broke into my house or went to harm me.

    Makes sense.

  9. Yeah, I walk my dogs every day where I live in the countryside. When some neighbors let their big Rottweilers loose after midnight a few years back in the neighborhood, that seemed to help. One guy does not have his pit bull on a leash when he is outdoors with him, and that can help too. I live in a very low crime neighborhood, but sometimes there are robbers of outdoor materials like metal fencing, but the law enforcement catches them eventually. The pandemic is really harsh, and the economy is not a positive in many areas, it is quite sad that there is no living wage, yet one does not want to become impoverished by robbers. My dogs are companion hunting dogs, and I got them to keep the wildlife out of my vegetable boxes, and for companionship.

  10. I live in a castle doctrine state, the dogs are just an alarm for me and a warning to get out on you own or get carried out.

  11. This only works if you don’t have liberal woke neighbors who decide to allow a convicted felon and drug addict to live with them who has no familial relationship. 5 of the 8 houses in our block were burglarized within a nine month period, including the house he was living in that had no forced entry like the previous 4 in our upper middle class neighborhood. It remains the only burglaries in our block in 33 years. I complained about the Airbnb starting up across the street because I saw different strangers every day that they rented out rooms for $50-$70/night. Our covenants stated single family homes and several other homes had been bought by real estate agents and renting them out primarily as party houses on weekends whose neighbors complained only after I did. The HOA stresses the importance of safety and encourages people to join the COP program then invite strangers into our neighborhood. We can’t recognize who belongs and who doesn’t and when 5 strangers watch me leave from the driveway directly across from me, it makes my house vulnerable. Finally, the board banned short term rentals although I have had boarding houses on either side with up to 6 people renting and cars everywhere except in front of the one house that rents the rooms while the other does allow it. Since the HOA president requested parking on one side of the curved road because he lives at the end of a long cul-de-sac and routinely speeded because it slowed he and his family down, the parking is compounded. His block doesn’t have the same restriction of course.

  12. The study is flawed. Rich people’s neighborhoods are less likely to have crime than poor people’s neighborhoods. Richer people are more likely to own dogs, or to be able to afford to keep dogs and have the time to take care of dogs, than poorer people.

  13. What nonsense. Bad neighborhoods, ghettos and barrios are crawling with dogs and have fantasticly high crime rates. Some neighborhoods have quite a few irresponsible dog owners that think their dogs are people, allowing them to bark incessantly. These out of control canines cause terrible disturbances of the peace and are unwelcome nuisances. I don’t want to be anywhere near them.

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