I didn’t have dogs growing up. We had cats (4 of them over the 20-odd years I lived at home) and some of them were great. Others were those other sort of cat, but whatever the reason, my parents never gave into our begging for a puppy.

When I was 22, my then-fiancee and I stopped in a pet store (I know, I was dumb) and I fell in love with a papillon puppy. I had to have him, despite the price tag and despite the poor timing, and I loved that dog with my heart and soul for every last one of the 16 years we had together.

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My family and I are in the process of getting a puppy now, and I hope so hard that my young sons adore growing up with a dog of their own.

Why, though, do so many people see a dog as an essential part of a happy family?

It turns out there are more than a few reasons having one around is good for you and yours, so it’s possible we’re just picking up innately on some of these 8 things science says they do for their humans.

8. They might improve your social life.

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Owning dog tells other people you’re trustworthy, and a 2015 study found they can help facilitate friendships and social networking in other ways, too. Dogs can both spark new relationships and keep existing interactions thriving – a different study actually found that people with dogs have closer and more supportive relationships in their lives.

7. You’re likely to be healthier.

We are always in a battle against germs, but in recent years, scientists have come to believe that the more diverse the microbiome in our homes and bodies, the better off we are when it comes to fighting the nasty bugs out there.

Dogs are covered in germs, which means the houses they live in are exposed to a more diverse range of bacteria. Oddly, this seems to be a win for people, who get ill less frequently and with less severity than their non-dog counterparts.

6. Dogs might protect you from cancer.

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There are many anecdotal stories out there of dogs sniffing, licking, or obsessing over a mole or lump to the point where their human checks it out – only to discover it’s cancer. Scientific studies back these up, though, and some dogs are even being trained to purposely sniff out the deadly disease.

Listen to your dog, y’all – he/she knows best!

5. They could help mitigate seasonal allergies.

If you’re allergic to dog dander, that’s one thing – but not what we’re talking about here. It turns out that kids who grow up in a house with a dog (the more the merrier) are less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives.

One 2017 study even found that the bacterial exchange that happened between pregnant women and their pets was passed onto the baby before/during birth, even if the pet was no longer in the home. The babies tested positive for Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, two bacteria that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, eczema, and obesity.

4. They’ll lower your stress at work.

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If you bring your dog along, anyway.

Studies show that people who interact with a pet at work have lower stress levels throughout the day, take more breaks, and take the dog for a quick walk, all of which gives them more energy to do their jobs.

Companies are catching on to the boost in productivity and job satisfaction, and fewer dogs are spending their days alone at home – win/win!!

3. You’re more likely to exercise.

Dogs need to be walked and they enjoy energetic play, so guess what? A good portion of dog owners get the 30 minutes of exercise a day that’s recommended to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease.

This one is easy and pretty much unavoidable… unless you have a lazy dog.

2. They teach your kids empathy.

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There have been studies that disagree, but a 2017 look at the link between empathy and pet ownership in kids found that an attachment to a dog encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals and humans.

It looked at 1000 kids between the ages of 7 and 12 and concluded that children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, noting that “dogs may help children to regular their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child’s attachment related behavior.”

1. There’s a good chance you’ll be happier.

Many studies have found that dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression, and for people who own dogs and do battle clinical depression, having a dog to care for can help help out of depressive episodes.

Caring for a dog requires a routine, at least a small amount of activity, and encourages interacting with others. Taking care of another being also tends to increase our sense of well-being, and the love your pup gives you provides much-needed positive feedback – and an oxytocin boost, too.

I buy every single one of these, just based on personal experience, and I bet you do, too!

What’s your favorite thing about having a dog? If it’s not on the list, share it with us!