There's nothing like the unconditional love of a dog. But, researchers are finding there are many more reasons to love your dog than you may have initially thought.

Playing with your dog brings a whole slew of health benefits with it, from reduced blood pressure to improved fitness levels and decreased stress. I like to say, “A pet a day keeps the doctor away.”

Here are my top ten reasons why playing with a dog every day is the best medicine:

1. Playing with a dog lowers your blood pressure.

Petting a dog is in no way a replacement for healthy eating and exercise, but studies show that interacting with a dog can lower your blood pressure.

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2. Research suggests that owning a dog may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Even the American Heart Association agrees that it's likely that owning a dog reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. In addition to lowering blood pressure, owning a dog has been linked to increased physical activity and better stress response.

3. Playing with dogs outside can improve bone strength.

Going outside to walk your dog not only provides you with some fresh air, but also some sun, which is the best source of vitamin D to help your bones stay strong.

4. Dogs put you in a better mood (woof, woof)!

Playing with a dog has been show to release feel good and happiness hormones in both human and dog, following the interaction.

In addition, the experience offers companionship which gives you an optimistic mindset and boosts self-esteem!

5. Playing with a dog can help curb anxiety.

When a dog licks you, wants to cuddle or demands your attention, he or she refocuses your attention and can alleviate otherwise all-consuming anxiety.

Playing with dogs has been shown to have positive self-reported effects on calming fear and anxiety and reduces stress-related responses in the body.

6. Playing with a dog reduces stress.

Similarly, just spending time with your dog lowers your body’s production of cortisol and increases the production of serotonin, which translates to less stress and a greater sense of well-being.

7. Dogs are a soothing presence.

Dogs force you to focus on the (adorable) present moment that is right in front of you! Even if only for a brief moment, this can have an incredibly calming effect. Petting dogs provides temporary comfort.

8. Playing with a dog can actually make you a better person.

Research also shows that daily participation in the humane treatment of dogs leads to greater empathy, leadership and social engagement.

Some theorize that because dogs can't speak, those who play with them as young children have a broader array of communication skills.

9. Dogs are good for your heart.

It’s no surprise that dogs love to be walked and play fetch, and when you participate in these activities you too are reaping the benefits of exercise.

According to the American Heart Association, there is evidence that owning a dog reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.

10. Owning a dog increases your lifespan.

On average, because of all the health benefits above, dog owners experience longer lifespans. Also, as you age, canine companionship makes life more gratifying.

All this AND lots of love in return can be yours just from taking care of a dog.

If you're thinking about getting a dog, please consider adopting one of the many abandoned dogs that end up in shelters and need good homes and lots of love. You can always start by volunteering at a shelter to play with a dog and take an important step in finding each one a “forever home.”

Whatever way works for you, make sure to get your daily dose of dog!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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