With the welcome they give you when you get home after a long day at work and their habit of snuggling up with you on the sofa to keep you company on long winter nights, it is not hard to see why dogs have come to be known as “man’s best friend”. But did you know that owning a dog can bring a number of health benefits as well? Scientists have long been curious about the seemingly miraculous effects that close contact with our canine friends can have on people suffering from health problems. Read on for a list of six awesome benefits of dog ownership.

1. They force you to stay active

Aside from food, water and love, the next thing that dogs need is exercise. If you are one of those people who struggles to find the energy to get out much, fulfilling this need provides a great excuse to leave the house and get fresh air on a more regular basis. This will have a positive knock-on effect on both your physical and mental health.

2. They reduce the risk of eczema and allergies in children

Studies have shown that children who grow up in houses with dogs are statistically less likely to develop asthma and allergies. Scientists believe that this is because they are exposed to a higher number of harmless germs and bacteria that help to strengthen their immune systems.

3. They can detect cancer

There have been numerous reports of dogs changing their behavior in the period before their owners are diagnosed with cancer. In fact, although it may sound like a superstitious old wives tale, dogs’ ability to detect cancer has been backed up by scientific research. Some dogs can even be trained to detect certain types of cancer!

4. They can improve your mood

The unconditional love that a dog shows toward its owner can bring a lot of happiness into a person’s life. As any dog owner will attest to, dogs have a miraculous ability to lift our spirits when we are feeling low. Dogs have been used in some cases to treat depression and other mood disorders, and the beneficial effects that they can have on a person’s mental health are well-known. 

5. They kill feelings of loneliness

Loneliness is a silent killer. Statistics show that people who are isolated and lonely are a lot more likely to become ill. Although they do not make great conversation partners, dogs make great companions and can help keep feelings of loneliness at bay. 

6. They reduce stress

The theory that contact with dogs reduces stress levels has been borne out in scientific enquiry. Not only does stroking a dog reduce your heart rate, but it also reduces your blood pressure, helping to lower your risk of heart problems. 

Aside from the many potential health benefits mentioned above, owning a dog can be great fun. Do not worry if you cannot afford to commit to owning one, though; you could always try dog-sitting for a friend once in a while. Just make sure you are prepared to give the dog back when the time comes!