If this holiday season you're thinking about welcoming a new furry friend into the family, consider a dog. Loyal, protective, and always happy to see you, the dog has been a human companion for more than 18,000 years, making it one of the first domesticated animals in history.
Don't just take our word for it. Scientists have proof that dogs make us laugh more than cats, keep us more active than the average human companion, and even reduce our chances of depression. If you need a little more convincing, or you need to convince someone else in the household, here are the cold, hard facts for why you should own a dog.
1. Dogs Make Us Laugh
People who own dogs laugh more, according to a study published in the journal Society & Animals.
Researchers asked people who owned dogs, cats, both, or neither to record how often they laughed over the course of a day. Those who owned just dogs and both dogs and cats recorded laughing more than the other two groups.
2. Dogs Are Loyal
The origin of today's domesticated house-dog reaches back to between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago, when they evolved from wolves. Wolves are known for living in packs and developing strong bonds between pack members. It's this pack behaviour that's what makes today's dogs so loyal.
Stephen Zawistowski, a science advisor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, explains that dogs see their human owners as fellow members of their pack and, therefore, form the same close bond with their owners as they would with their canine brothers and sisters.
3. We're More Social With A Dog
In the UK, a team of scientist at the University of Liverpool and the University of Bristol found that UK residents with dogs were more likely to encounter other dogs and dog-owners than people who did not own a dog. This makes sense since dog-owners are more likely to head out of the house on walks, and are more likely to run into other dog-owners on their own strolls.
Moreover, the average American is more likely to own a dog than the other common house pet, the cat. That's more people to converse with about annoying dog hair, funny dog farts, and comforting dog cuddles.
4. Dogs Keep Us Healthy
Dogs might even protect us from poor health. Children born into households with a dog have a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies. The reason being dust.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year showed that when exposed to dust from households where dogs were permitted inside and outside, mice developed an altered community of microbes in their gut that protect against allergens. They report that these microbes could be what's protecting young children from developing allergens in households with dogs.
5. We're More Active With Dogs
Obesity is a major concern today, so it's important to get regular exercise. Researchers at Michigan State University reported in 2011 that 60 percent of dog owners who took their pet for regular walks met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise.
Moreover, elderly who walk their dogs actually have a more regular exercise routine and are more physically fit than elderly who walk with other people, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services in 2010.
6. Dogs Save Lives
Dogs are not a cat's best friend, but earlier this year, one lucky cat in Florida was saved by a blood transfusion from, you guessed it, a dog. Some dogs have a universal blood donor type, just like some humans, and when no cat blood was around for 'Buttercup', the veterinarian used what was on hand, which reportedly saved the cat's life.
Dogs can also help humans by acting as an early-warning system for patients who suffer from seizures. Trained dogs can sense the onset of a seizure up to 15 minutes before it occurs and will bark when this happens, which then warns the patient to sit so to prevent injury from falling down, for example. How dogs know when a seizure is coming is still unknown.
7. Dogs Give Us A Sense Of Purpose
Dogs are great companions for anyone, but especially for the elderly. In a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, elderly who owned a dog reported feeling more satisfied with their social, physical and emotional state than those without a dog.
8. Dogs Give Us Confidence
In another study, participants obtained a dog and were assessed after ten months with their new canine companion. In general, the participants reported a higher sense of self-esteem, improved exercise habits, and less fear of crime.
9. Dogs Make Us Genuinely Happy
Just the simple act of making eye contact with your furry friend can release the feel-good chemical called oxytocin. In a study that measured oxytocin levels from two groups of dog owners, the group that were instructed not to look directly at their dog had lower oxytocin levels than the other group that made regular eye contact.
Another study found that dog owners who relied on their dogs for social fulfillment reported that "they were less depressed, less lonely, had higher self-esteem, were happier, and tended to experience less perceived stress".
While owning a dog is a wonderful experience, just make sure you're ready for the responsibility. Before actually purchasing a dog, consider fostering one for a few weeks to get the feel for what kind of schedule you'll have to keep.
And if you're ready to welcome a four-legged, wagging tail into your heart, try this app that can help you pick the perfect pooch for you.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
More from Business Insider: