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7 Benefits Of Owning A Dog, According To Science

One of my best friends is a serious dog lady. Right after graduating college, she adopted a sweet terrier, and the two of them have taken on the world together. The well-trained dog is a frequent volunteer at nursing homes (and quite the hit with residents.) My friend even had photos of the dog included in her engagement shoot. It’s safe to say her puppy buddy brightened her life in a number of ways. When you open your home to a new canine pal, you get a funny, loyal friend for life, and there are some serious benefits of owning a dog, according to science. Basically: dogs are the best. They can help you stay healthy and happy.

It turns out your four-legged buddy can have a tremendous positive impact on your physical and mental health, as well as your social life. After all, all those walks encourage you to get exercise and meet your neighbors. In honor of March 23 being National Puppy Day, which celebrates puppies and advocates for their adoption, here is a look at the many ways bringing a dog into your life can be beneficial for you both. For more information (and lots of adorable dog pictures) read on.

1. Increased Exercise

Corinne Benavides / Flickr

If you're trying to get more active, then a dog might be a great motivator. As the National Institute for Health reported,  dog owners who regularly walk their dogs are more physically active and less likely to be obese than those who don't. After all, it's hard to say no to a running buddy who legitimately needs to go outside regularly.

2. Increased Calm

Jonathan Kriz / Flickr

The Harvard Medical School is so serious about the benefits of canine companions that it has a special health report titled Get Healthy, Get a Dog. One of the many benefits that the report outlines is the ability of dogs to "help you be calmer, more mindful, and more present in your life." Dogs inherently live in the moment, and they encourage you to do the same. It's a great way to break the worry cycle.

3. Social Support

Cameron Yee / Flickr

Even if you have a great social life, your dog can help make it even better. A study from the American Psychological Association found that "owners enjoyed better well-being when their pets fulfilled social needs better, and the support that pets provided complemented rather than competed with human sources." After if you're looking to make more friends, being out and about with an adorable puppy can only help the cause.

4. Lessen Allergies

Tobias / Flickr

Growing up with dogs may actually decrease your chances for allergies. According to a study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, "exposure to furred pets might confer protection against the development of allergic sensitization through a mechanism that is incompletely understood." So if your kids grow up with a dog in the house, they may have a decreased risk of developing allergies.

5. Better Health Stats

Richard Munckton / Flickr

Your dog may also make your next check-up better. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, owning a pet can decrease your "blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels." Thanks, Fido!

6. Heart Health

Graham Smith / Flickr

Dogs are good for your heart both metaphorically and literally. As the American Heart Association explains, "owning pets is associated with reducing your risk of heart disease." This may be due to the increased exercise from all those walks, or your dog's social support.

7. Longer Life

Justin Beckley / Flickr

When all of the physical and mental health benefits of owning a dog add up, there's one potentially great outcome: having a dog "may also help [owners] live longer," as a piece in Berkeley Wellness notes. Dogs can make you happier and healthier and might even add years to your life. What's not to love?