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Proven Health Benefits of Having a Dog (As If Cuteness Wasn’t Enough)

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If you have a dog, we don’t need to tell you it’s the light of your life. You already know. That’s why you just took another photo of him napping and said, “Aww!” aloud as you admired it and promptly sent it to three friends and your mom.

If you don’t have a dog, we’ve got news for you: scientifically speaking, you’re missing out – and not just because the aforementioned people would probably appreciate more puppy pics. Turns out, dog ownership comes with a healthy helping of health benefits. Sound too good to be true? Allow us to present some facts.

Puppy dog eyes encourage exercise.

You: looking forward to drinking two glasses of wine, watching 2 1/2 episodes of “Our Planet,” and passing out on the couch. Your dog: giving you that irresistible “ just one more walk” look and inevitably persuading you to hop up and grab the leash. According to a recent article in The New York Times, dog owners spend about 300 minutes each week walking their dogs – that’s 200 minutes more than most dogless humans spend walking themselves. Standard health guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, putting these pet owners well ahead of the curve.

Dogs can prevent heart disease.

We heart dogs – and our hearts do, too. Having a dog can help lower high blood pressure, which is one of the top causes of heart disease. One study found that when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter, their blood pressure declined significantly within five months. Not only that, but having a dog makes people less likely to get heart disease, and dogs have even been proven to prolong the lives of people who already have heart problems.

Dogs help you manage stress.

Studies suggest dog owners experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. The mere act of petting your dog can help your body release happy relaxation hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, which cut down on the stress hormone (and soothe your pet, too!). Also, you know how your dog does something adorable and you smile and briefly forget your troubles, like, 20 times per day? We’re not doctors, but we’re pretty sure that’s another contributing factor here.

Dogs supplement your social life.

Humans need human interaction. It’s science. And when you’re parading down the sidewalk with an adorable furry creature by your side, people will stop to talk to you pet your dog. That’s also science. People with more social support are mentally and physically healthier, happier, and likelier to live longer. Whether you need help breaking the ice with neighbors, engaging in small talk with strangers, or catching the eye of that hottie across the park, consider Fido your woofing wingman. (Plus, if it doesn’t work out, he’ll be there to console you.)

Dogs contribute to healthier babies.

Recently welcomed a little one into the world? They can count themselves lucky, too. Growing up around pets has been shown to decrease the likelihood of allergies and asthma. One study even found that infants with pets have fewer colds and ear infections during their first year – plus, you get a front-row seat to premium content like this.

In the face of such overwhelming evidence, why wouldn’t you get a dog? (Actually, there are a few reasons a dog might not be right for you – make sure you pass the items on our “am I ready for a puppy” checklist before sprinting to the shelter.) Provided you’re prepared to cuddle and care for a canine, it’s clear man’s fluffiest friend can offer much more than love and loyalty in return.