There are so many reasons to love your dog: the wet nose, the wagging tail, the constant, unconditional love even when you’re at your very worst. But in case having a pet who’s unbelievably thrilled by your very presence isn’t enough for you (take that, cats!), here are six more reasons to love your dog—the totally unexpected ways that owning a dog actually helps you save money.

1. Your dog keeps your doctor’s bills down.

You might not realize it, but your pooch’s needs encourage you to have all kinds of healthy habits, from keeping a regular sleep schedule to getting outdoors every day. All those walks add up! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted studies that found that pet owners had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as lower blood pressure, than non-pet owners.

Fido can help you raise healthier kids, too: research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that children raised around dogs (and other furry critters) develop stronger immune systems and are actually less likely to have allergies than their pet-less pals. Turns out that owning a pup is a pretty good form of preventative medicine—and staying healthy helps you save on healthcare costs down the line.

2. Your dog can be your therapist.

Dogs aren’t just good for your physical health—they also boost your emotional wellbeing. Petting and playing with your dog can be an anxiety reliever. Even just a quick snuggle session or game of fetch will do the trick; researchers have found that 15 to 30 minutes of pleasurable pet activity is enough to elevate your brain’s levels of serotonin and dopamine, a.k.a. your feel-good neurotransmitters.

This also may be why so many studies have found that dogs help reduce your stress levels. In one study from SUNY Buffalo, seeing their dogs made participants react more calmly in stressful situations than seeing their husbands and wives did. Plus, you don’t just get to see your dog for fifty minutes a week—per minute, Rover is pretty much the least expensive shrink you can find.

3. Your dog is your security system.

Sorry, ADT—you’ve got a D-O-G on the case. You don’t have to own a Rottweiler or German Shepherd to feel safer with your dog; even a Yorkie or Malti-poo will do. Whether you’re in your home or out with your pet, thieves and other ne’er-do-wells avoid dogs. And again, they don’t want to deal with any dog—according to one criminologist, small dogs can actually be more of a deterrent than their Beethoven-size brothers, since they have a reputation for being nervous and noisy. Your neighbors should thank you, too: even living next to a dog owner decreases your risk of burglary. Save on home monitoring services, and just put up a “beware of dog” sign.

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4. Your dog might be a deduction.

Working dogs might not pay taxes, but they can actually help you save when April 15th rolls around. Seeing-eye dogs and other service dogs (including Emotional Support Animals) are a deductible medical expense. In order to claim the deduction, your pup must be registered with an agency as an official service animal. If you establish that the dog is used primarily for medical care, per IRS Publication 502 your pooch’s food, training, medication, and vet bills can all count as medical deductions. Other working dogs—including guard dogs and farm dogs—can actually be deducted as business expenses, but the IRS draws a clear distinction here between workers and pets. So yes, even though your Malti-poo can keep you safe (see #3), you can’t call her a guard dog and claim her as a business expense.

5. Other people’s dogs might be a deduction, too.

If you’re really committed to our canine companions and you volunteer at a shelter or with a dog-related nonprofit, you can deduct any non-reimbursed expenses you paid out-of-pocket. For example, if you foster dogs in your home and your dog-related expenses aren’t being paid by a shelter or rescue organization, you can deduct the stuff you paid for like puppy chow and vet bills.

If you volunteer at a shelter, you can’t deduct the value of your time—and come on, isn’t helping dogs find good home payment enough? But you can deduct other volunteering-related expenses, like if you used your car to help bring supplies to an adoption event. If you weren’t reimbursed by the shelter or rescue group for parking, gas, or other expenses, there’s another deduction.

6. Your dog is a fantastic wingman.

Now yes, studies have found that people can get as strong of an emotional boost from having a dog as a companion as they can from having another person around, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Your pooch can help you meet people in places that aren’t bars—no cover charges, no pricey cocktails, no cab fare necessary.

From the dog park (free!) to sitting outside a coffee shop ($4, max), your dog is a perfect conversation-starter. Sure, you might be afraid to approach that cute guy or girl—but chances are pretty good your dog would love to meet them. And guess what? You’ve already broken the ice, because here’s something to talk about—your dog. If they’ve got a dog too, even better. Oh hey, who’s your groomer? Want to hit up this great hiking trail? Before you know it, you’ve got a date—maybe you can use some of your extra cash to go somewhere nice.

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Featured photo credit: Yorkshire Portrait via picjumbo.com

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