People with dogs are healthier, happier and more responsible human beings.

There is a reason the canine species is so lovingly referred to as “man’s best friend.” Dogs are loyal, lovable companions that will always keep us company on the couch while we watch Netflix or out on the trails for a hike. In honor of National Dog Day (August 26), we rounded up five reasons (of the many) it pays to be a dog mom or dad—and how having a dog is actually better for your overall health and wellness. (Not that we need to convince you dog owners of that.)

Dogs keep us active

This is a pretty obvious reason: Dogs need walks, which means we have to lace up our shoes and hit the pavement or park. Get outside with your pup and throw a few tennis balls, or go for a run. You and Fido will be better for it.

Dogs keep our hearts healthy

Dogs promote exercise (see above). Exercise is good for our hearts, helping to lower our cholesterol and blood pressure. And of course, movement also helps with weight loss, which can take the strain off our heart. Dogs, it seems, have our whole hearts—literally.

They’re therapeutic

Ever heard of trained therapy dogs? These service animals provide physical and emotional support, often for people with mental illness or cognitive disabilities. Their owners may take them to visit hospital patients, or the owners themselves may be the beneficiaries of canine support for coping with daily life. Therapy dogs have been proven to help with anxiety and stress, loneliness and behavioral problems. But even pups that aren’t designated therapy dogs can provide therapy to their owners, including reassurance, listening skills and unconditional love.

They teach us responsibility

You’re taking care of someone other than yourself. You feed your pup, provide water and shelter, walk and play with her, take her to the vet, keep her groomed. These are all qualities of a responsible person (#adulting).

They make us happy

Studies show that pet owners are happier than non-pet owners. Not only do dogs keep us company (and keep us from being lonely), but all of the above benefits of having a dog play a part in overall happiness: Dogs reduce anxiety and stress, provide a sense of belonging, aid in self-esteem and keep us physically healthy. Taking your dog to the dog park also helps get you outside and socializing with other owners, which has been proven to ward off depression. All of these things, and more, keep us happy and healthy—and all the credit goes to our furry friends.

This weekend, let’s give our pups a good belly scratch and a treat to thank them for all they do to keep us happy and healthy!

Photo credit: woottigon, Thinkstock