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Dog Lovers Rejoice: Proof Your Furry Pal Is Good for Your Family’s Health

You love your dog and strive to keep him healthy. Turns out, he’s doing the same for you.

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You get your dog the best age- and breed-specific food, you buy him almost as many toys as you do for your kids, you rush him to the vet the second something seems wrong—anything to keep him healthy. Turns out, he’s returning the favor.

He gets you to move. Regular walks are good for Fido and for your fitness levels. A study published in the BMC Public Health Journal showed that dog owners walked an average of 22 more minutes a day (or 2,760 additional steps, if you count them) than non-dog walkers. This surplus strolling alone can help you reach the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate activity if you’re going at a brisk pace (and you probably are if your pup is pulling you). But owning a dog isn’t just good for you—it can also boost your kids’ weekly exercise stats. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that children with dogs spent more time being physically active than children without dogs.

He may reduce eczema risk in your children. Don’t want your kids to suffer from eczema-induced itches? A dog could help. After following 636 children from age 1 to age 4, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that having a dog early on was associated with a reduced risk of eczema among children who had been sensitized to dogs.

He helps you relax. Dogs have been shown to have a stress-reducing effect on their owners: One study indicated that owning a dog while on hypertensive medication may help lower your response to mental stress. It is also believed that petting, playing with, or simply gazing into your dog’s eyes can boost your mood by raising the levels of oxytocin—a chemical associated with bonding—in your brain. Pet your pup to your heart’s content!