It’s no surprise to dog owners to hear that dogs are good for your health and wellbeing. What may be surprising is some of the many ways research shows that dogs can help us lead healthier, happier lives.

1. How Petting a Dog is Like a Drug For Your Brain

Well, kind of.

Research shows that petting your dog causes both dopamine and serotonin to flood into your body. These chemicals are mood boosters. Many anti-depressants work, in part, by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body. Ecstasy (or MDMA), the illegal drug sometimes referred to as the love pill also stimulates the products of these chemicals.

Petting a dog releases these into our bodies without all the harmful side effects of taking a drug to lift our moods. In fact, there are only positive side effects that come from petting a dog! And all these effects work together to potentially improve the moods of depression sufferers.

2. Staring Into Your Dog’s Eyes Literally Fills You With Love

Other research has shown that staring into your dog’s eyes triggers the release of oxytocin.

Oxytocin has recently been linked to playing a key role in our social behavior. It’s important in mother-infant bonding, recognition, trust, anxiety as well as sexual arousal. Because of its effects, oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the love hormone and cuddle chemical.

So staring into those puppy dog eyes of your pooch will send love coursing through your veins!

3. Dogs Owners Have Stronger, Healthier Hearts

Not only do they capture our hearts, but dogs improve the health of our hearts.

Studies show having a dog decreases cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides which is awesome for our hearts! Dog owners also experience fewer heart attacks and the ones who do have a heart attack have improved survival rates after the attack.

And these are not the only ways dogs help our hearts?

4. Owning a Dog Will Keep You More Active and Fit

Regular exercise is great for dogs and for people. And owning a dog gives you plenty of excuses for you and your pup to exercise together (which makes exercising WAY more fun!).

Whether it’s going for a walk, playing a game of fetch or tug-o-war, or taking a nice long hike in nature, dog owners tend to be more active than those who don’t have dogs. And being more active offers all sorts of health benefits.

Yes, as we just mentioned, a healthy heart is one of those benefits. But walking and/or playing with dogs can lead to weight loss, a lower body mass index, fewer doctor visits and other health benefits.

5. Talking To Your Dog Is Great for Your Mental Health

Have something to get off your chest? Need a sympathetic ear (albeit one that may not understand everything it hears you saying)?

It’s been shown that talking to your dog is a good way to improve your mental health. There’s something about saying things out loud to an attentive audience that can work wonders for our moods and stress levels.

No, your dog isn’t going to offer you advice. But just being able to say things out loud without the fear of being judged can be great therapy.

6. Dogs Improve Your Social Life

Not all of us are social butterflies. But owning a dog tends to make it easier to strike up conversations with others and be more extroverted. When you take your dog for a walk, you can’t help but meet more neighbors and talk to them about your favorite subject your dog(s)!

7. They Can Strengthen That Immune System

Doctors used to think that living in the same house as a dog (or cat) would make kids more likely to develop allergies. However, doctors have now found that the exact opposite is true!

A study published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that having a dog or cat in the house lowers a child’s likelihood of developing an allergy to pets by up to 33%. Not only that, but the research suggests that growing up with a dog or cat may help kids develop stronger immune systems.

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