Three reasons to love your dog

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I grew up with a ton of animals. We had large dogs (Great Danes, St. Bernards). Small dogs (Toy Poodles, King Charles Spaniels). Cats. Horses. Cattle. Chickens. Ducks. A Myna Bird. The occasional goat. So I am pretty comfortable with the idea of critters running around the house. All that dirt and dander might strike some people as further cause for anxiety, but science actually says otherwise. Multiple studies show that pet owners are less likely to schedule a doctor’s visit, complain of poor sleep or experience depression.

To wit: three key health benefits of pets:

Exercise: A study of 2,199 adults showed that those with dogs were more likely to reach national goals for being physically active, specifically through walking. Consequently, they are also less likely to be obese. This breeds good health in all kinds of ways.

Stress reduction: Physically, loving on a pet lowers your blood pressure—coincidently lowering your risk of stroke and heart attack. Even watching fish in their tank creates these benefits. Emotionally, it is lovely to have that unconditional love and deep understanding in a tough time. In fact, studies show that pet owners can feel more capable of tackling problems. Pets are also the perfect confident; they are really good at keeping secrets.

Positive thinking: Believing that your pet enhances your quality of life can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But what is real: they give you something to think about besides your problems, and the routine of caring for a pet gives shape to your day, a reason to get out of the house, and a way to bond with other people.