We have a long history with dogs. Between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, humans domesticated dogs, forming a symbiotic relationship that has played an important role in both species’ evolution.

While dogs originally served as protectors and helped with hunting (which they still do today), their age-old relationship has become much deeper. As the saying goes now, a dog is man’s best friend.

Most folks today have dogs because it’s a way to make their lives more fun. Yet having a dog brings even more benefits than all the laughs that come with watching them chase their tails, getting your face licked, and scratching their belly. Dogs actually make us better people.

Since May is National Pet Month, I thought it would be a great idea to write about this topic: how dogs help us. So, let’s explore why dogs enable us to become better individuals.

Having a Dog Improves Patience

Every person who has a dog has had to deal with poop on the floor or something getting torn up (not my new socks!). What this builds in you is patience.

With a dog, you learn how to deal with unideal situations and figure out ways to train and improve the dog’s behavior. No wonder 54% of dog parents say their pup has made them more patient, according to a BarkBox study.

Having a Dog Makes us Happy

That same BarkBox study found that 71% of dog parents say their pup has made them happier. There’s a variety of reasons that dogs enhance our happiness. They offer unconditional love and are always there for us. They encourage us to exercise and get outside in nature, keeping us physically healthy and keeping our endorphins and Vitamin D up (which keeps us mentally healthy). Dogs also teach us how to live in the moment, as their excitement over a butterfly in the park or playing fetch encourages us to forget all else and just have a good time.

The interesting thing is that Harvard researchers have discovered that happiness is actually contagious. So, the happiness our dogs bring us will actually spread to the friends and family around us. That’s a powerful thing.

Having a Dog Makes us More Responsible

We are caring for another living thing. This comes with the responsibility to ensure its physical and mental wellbeing. If that means getting up at 4 a.m. to take the pup outside to pee, you get up and do it.

According to the BarkBox study, 52% of dog parents believe they’ve become more responsible since getting a dog. I believe I have as well.

Having a Dog Makes us More Affectionate

The BarkBox survey discovered that about 47% of dog parents feel they’ve learned more about affection from their dog. This isn’t surprising, considering that dogs will cuddle with you when you’re feeling down or jump and play with you when you’re feeling good.

Being more affectionate can lead to stronger relationships with friends and family. This is because you’ll be more in tune with your emotions and understand more about how to be a caring individual.

Having a Dog Makes you a Better Communicator

Much of communication is nonverbal, research has shown. As far as I know, there aren’t any dogs that can talk, though they can understand many words. What this means is that we must use other ways to communicate, such as tone of voice and non-verbal signals like touching and gesturing.

Having to do this with our dogs encourages us to be more focused on our body language and tone of voice in interactions with others. This is why dogs can make us better at communication overall.

Giving Credit to Our Dogs

Dogs are truly extraordinary creatures. After all, they have the potential to enhance our happiness and health—and make us better people. Remember: it’s National Pet Month. If you’re a dog lover like me, take time to thank your dog for all that they’ve done for you. Perhaps that could mean dog treats or a special trip to a nature preserve. Whatever you do, make sure your pup has a blast. Because they deserve it.