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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 have to tell you that it is the light of your life. You already know it. That’s why you just took another picture of him and said, “Aww!” loud as you admired it and immediately sent it to three friends and your mother.

If you don’t have a dog, we’ve got news for you: Scientifically, you’re missing out – and not just because the people above would probably appreciate more puppy pictures. It turns out that dog ownership comes with a healthy dose of health benefits. Sounds too good to be true? Let us present some facts.

Doggy eyes encourage movement.

They look forward to having two glasses of wine, watching 2 1/2 episodes of Our Planet, and passing out on the couch. Your dog: You look irresistible and inevitably convince you to jump up and grab the leash. According to a recent article in the New York Times, dog owners spend about 300 minutes a week walking their dogs – that’s 200 minutes more than most dogless people who walk themselves. Standard health guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, which will keep these pet owners way ahead of the curve.

Dogs can help prevent heart disease.

We love dogs – and so do our hearts. A dog can help lower high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease. One study found that blood pressure decreased significantly within five months when people with borderline hypertension adopted dogs from a shelter. Not only that, but having a dog makes people less likely to develop heart disease, and dogs have even been shown to extend the lives of people who already have heart problems.

Dogs help you deal with stress.

Studies suggest that dog owners have lower cardiovascular reactivity during stressful times. Just petting your dog can help your body release happy relaxation hormones like serotonin and dopamine, which reduce the stress hormone (and calm your pet too!). You also know how your dog does something adorable and you smile and briefly forget about your problems, about 20 times a day? We’re not doctors, but we’re pretty sure that’s another factor.

Dogs complement your social life.

People need human interaction. It’s science. And when you parade down the sidewalk with an adorable furry creature by your side, people will stop talking to you and petting your dog. That is science too. People with more social support are mentally and physically healthier, happier, and live longer. Whether you need help breaking the ice with neighbors, chatting to strangers, or getting that hot man’s attention in the park, consider Fido to be your flapping wingman. (And if it doesn’t work out, he’s there to comfort you.)

Dogs contribute to healthier babies.

Recently welcomed a small child into the world? You can consider yourself lucky too. Growing up with pets has been shown to reduce the likelihood of allergies and asthma. One study even found that infants with pets had fewer colds and ear infections in the first year. You also get a front row seat for premium content like this.

Given this overwhelming evidence, why wouldn’t you get a dog? (In fact, 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 you sprint to the shelter.) Provided you are ready to cuddle and take care of, it is clear to a dog that a man’s fluffiest friend can offer much more than love and loyalty in return.

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Robert Dunfee