Dogs are accused of bringing germs into the home and thereby stopping it from being 'too clean', but according to a new research, having a pooch at home may reduce your kids' chances of developing allergies.
The conclusion, based on a six-year study of 9,000 children, adds weight to the theory that growing up with a pet trains the immune system to be less sensitive to potential triggers for allergies such as asthma, eczema and hay fever.
The "hygiene theory" of allergy holds that modern life has simply become too clean, meaning that babies' immune systems are not exposed to enough germs to develop normally.
"Our results show clearly that the presence of a dog in the home during subjects' infancy is associated with a significantly low level of sensitization to pollens and inhaled allergens," Times Online quoted Joachim Heinrich of the National Research Centre for Environmental Health in Munich, as saying.
The same protective effect was not seen in children who had frequent contact with dogs but none at home.
In the study, the children were followed from birth to the age of six.
In the study, the researchers found that the blood of children raised in households with dogs contained fewer markers for allergy, such as antibodies to pollen, house dust mites, cat and dog dander, and mould spores.
But actual experience was rather less encouraging. Those children raised alongside a dog were no less likely to develop asthma or other allergies than were the other children. So while their blood samples suggested they were not susceptible, their experience suggested they were.
"It is not crystal clear why this is so," Professor Heinrich said.
The study is published in the European Respiratory Journal.