When we walk our dog, we exercise, too. And a recent study found that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week, or about double the amount of non-dog owners. Dogs can also strengthen human bonds.
A recent study at Tufts University found that people who feel strongly connected to their pets also have stronger relationships, and tighter community ties. That's because caring for a pet makes us more caring overall - because we get used to thinking about something besides ourselves. And the more attachment kids felt toward an animal as a teen, the more caring and confident they were as adults.
Another feel-good pet fact: Just looking at your dog will make you happier. One study saw dramatic increases in production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin when people interacted with their dog - even if they just looked into the dog's eyes for a few seconds. And aside from humans - dogs are the only animals that create that response from eye contact. And a dog's willingness to make eye contact with humans is one of the things that separates them from wolves. It's how they learned to "read" us - and that enabled them to bond with us.
Dogs can also help us recover psychologically...Like with veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or survivors of any trauma, like school shootings. University of British Columbia psychology professor Dr. Stanley Corey says that when we interact with a friendly animal, our blood pressure plummets and our muscles instantly relax. That's because animals are passive and aren't judging us.