Sometimes all it takes is a puppy’s sad-eyed Facebook photo to trigger a rescue operation that adds a K-9 to the family. But in many cases, deciding to get a dog is a drawn-out process, often with one half of a couple more gung-ho than the other. Your spouse may have legitimate reasons for hesitating, like, say, a love of his or her couch or carpets. Frequent travelers are often worried about the hassle of finding dogsitters or the cost of kennels.
But really, 90 percent of people in this world fall into two categories: those who want a dog, and those who will want a dog. Converting your spouse from the latter into the former is much easier if you offer up some solid, science-backed reasons why dogs are great for humans.
1. You’ll Be Happier
The longer a dog and owner hold a mutual gaze, the more oxytocin—aka the love hormone—the owner releases, a recent study showed. Oxytocin is known to enhance attachment, like the bond between mothers and infants. The more oxytocin released, the more an owner becomes attached to the dog and pets the dog, which then also releases oxytocin. It’s a cyclical pattern that makes both dogs and owners happy.
Beyond that, dogs have the most history with humans compared to other animals. “Why are dogs the longest domesticated animals? We believe it’s because they provide psychological support,” says Niwako Ogata, an assistant professor of animal behavior at Purdue University.
2. You’ll Get in Better Shape
When you first get your dog, you’ll walk it for the dog’s health. But pretty soon, your dog will be walking you.
“In a lot of instances, dogs become conditioned to walk—they get into a routine,” says Elizabeth Richards, an assistant professor of nursing at Purdue University and lead researcher in an ongoing study of dogs, physical activity, and walking. “One study participant told me his dog brings him his leash when he comes home from work.”
Can’t decide if you want to rescue a great dane or adopt a chihuahua? The dog’s age and size won’t make much difference when it comes to getting you outside. All dogs can make you more active, Richards found. “They all need to exercise,” she says.
3. You’ll Stress Less
Suffer from anxiety or depression? Being in a dog’s presence—even if it’s not your dog—can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and generally help you chill out.
“The presence of a dog lowers human stress hormones [like cortisone],” Richards says. “The cascade of effects lowers the fight-or-flight response, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure.”
Yes, if your dog eats your couch, you’ll stress out, but you’ll get over it. “Just change things around the house to prevent it from happening, like you’d do for a child,” Richards says. In the end, the mental benefits of doggie ownership vastly outweigh your furniture’s importance. “Your dog and young children,” Richards points out, “are the only people who are consistently happy when you come home.”
4. You’ll Be More Social
Think of your dog as a social lubricant. Having a dog can make you appear more approachable and increase your sense of community. “You’ll be outside with the dog, be perceived as more approachable, and have more interactions with other people, which has mental health and community benefits,” Richards says.
5. Your Family Will Likely Have Fewer Allergies
“People in houses with dogs have a decreased risk of developing environmental allergies,” Richards says. “Dogs have a fair amount of germs on them, and your body becomes used to having the extra germs around.”