Sure there are the obvious stories. The seeing-eye dog who keeps his human out of traffic. The cat who calls 9-1-1. All those times Lassie got Timmy out of the well. But aside from the miracle stories you hear on the evening news, our pets can keep us healthy in a number of ways every single day.

Dogs are good for your heart

And we’re not just talking about the unconditional love they give (although that’s certainly good for your self-esteem). Several studies have shown that dog owners have healthier statistics for several cardiovascular criteria, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels than non-owners. Additionally, studies have shown that heart attack sufferers who have pets have longer survival rates than those who don’t.

Dogs are good motivators for exercise

Not feeling motivated to hit the gym after a long day of work and traffic? That lack of motivation’s probably not going to fly with your dog. He’ll get you off the couch and into your sneakers for an evening walk or jog. Plus a dog means never having to worry about having a sports companion for the weekend. They’re always up for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or a Frisbee toss. It may also be one of the reasons pet owners are so heart-healthy.

Dogs are good for your social life

Anyone who’s seen the scene at the local dog park knows this is a perfect place for dogs and their humans to sniff each other out for future potential companionship. Also, walking your dog gets you out into the community, where you can meet your neighbors, check out the newest merchants and get yourself out of the car and into the mix.

Dogs are good for your immune system

Sure, having a dog means you’re going to stock up on lint rollers and vacuum cleaner bags, but children who are exposed to pets from an early age have been shown to be more resistant to allergies and less likely to develop asthma. Improved immune system response has also been linked to early exposure to the allergens and, well, dirt, which usually come part and parcel with the family pet.

Dogs are good for your mood

Dog therapy has taken off in nursing homes and hospices around the world. Caring for a pet has been shown to lower stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and increase energy. And not just in the elderly and the infirm. People who have pets in their lives have shown increased levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. The benefits have been so remarkable that some cities have banned “no pets allowed” landlords from denying pets to residents above a certain age or who are living with disease or disability.

So the next time you’re walking along with a full baggie in your coat pocket and telling yourself you can’t believe the things you do for your dog, take a step back and think about all the amazing things your dog is doing for you.

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