There’s one thing every pup parent can agree on—owning a dog changes your life. There are small things, like always having an entourage when going to the bathroom, but there’s something about living with a four-legged family member that changes how you see the world. We’re talking about the lessons you learn and the emotions you uncover when you share your life with a beloved dog. Dogs are more than pets, they’re huge parts of our lives. We’ve compiled experiences from dog owners from all walks of life to learn how their lives have changed since loving a dog.

1. You make friends more easily.

Woman Dog OwnerPup parents might prefer different breeds and debate about the healthiest dog food, but there’s something we all have in common—we love talking about our dogs. We bring them up in conversation every chance we get. Dogs are furry conversation starters that make even introverted people feel more comfortable in social settings. When you have a dog, making friends suddenly isn’t as stressful as it used to be. You can connect with fellow pup parents and bond over things like the best-fitting harnesses and what flavor cake you ordered for your pooch’s birthday.

2. You feel less lonely.

Dogs have the special quality of always being there when you need them. In their eyes, you are the world. You are their savior, provider, ball thrower, belly scratcher, and best friend. When you start to feel alone, your dog seems to know exactly what you need. Sometimes they climb into your lap for cuddles, and other times they force you up and out of your seat. Unlike the humans in your life, your pup will never ditch you or cancel plans. They always want to be with you, and that feeling of loyalty and love conquers loneliness every time.

3. Symptoms of depression feel lighter.

There have been countless studies on how the simple act of petting a dog can reduce stress, relieve anxiety, lower blood pressure, and help fight feelings of depression. It has to do with the “love hormone” called dopamine and the fact that unlike people, dogs are never judgmental or malicious. Their goals in life are to get their bellies rubbed, eat yummy treats, and to love people. Many people who suffer from depression say owning a dog fosters positive feelings that combat feelings of despair.

4. The exercise starts being fun (or at least bearable).

There’s a huge difference between sweating in a smelly gym and jogging with your best friend by your side. Even if you’re not into jogging, walking through the neighborhood or facilitating a rigorous game of “catch me if you can” is the kind of exercise you can actually enjoy doing. The athletic pup parents in the world take their high-energy dogs on hikes, long runs, walks, and outdoor adventures. But you don’t need to be running miles to get healthy and have fun exercising with your dog. For some of us, simple things like getting up to take your dog on potty breaks and going to the park to throw a ball count as an exercise you wouldn’t otherwise be getting—and there’s no expensive gym membership involved.

5. You learn to forgive and forget.

It might have to do with puppy dog eye mind control, but owning a dog teaches you the valuable lesson of how to forgive and forget. Even when you come home to an upturned garbage bin and chomp marks in your favorite shoes, it’s impossible to stay mad for long. One flash of those adorable eyes and everything is magically forgiven. Holding on to grudges is exhausting. Owning a dog is life’s perfect practice at letting things go.

6. Laughing turns into a second language.

There’s never a dull day when you share your home with a dog (or two). They’re constantly teaching you to appreciate the humor in everyday life. There are the obviously funny things, like when your dog wakes himself up with his own snoring, but even things that wouldn’t normally be funny become surprisingly hysterical when there’s a dog involved. Cooking dinner and cleaning the house isn’t so bad when you have a playful pup picking fights with the vacuum or waiting patiently for a dropped morsel of food.

7. You feel more confident.

Owning a dog is like having a best friend, family member, alarm system, and partner in crime all rolled into one adorable package. We talked to dog moms who say they feel confident and safe when they have their dog by their side. For some, it’s because dogs can hear things before we do, and when you live by yourself, having a dog to alert you of suspicious sounds helps you feel safer at home. Others appreciate the confidence boost that comes with successfully caring for another living being. When you can handle being a pup parent, other life challenges don’t seem so daunting. You’re a dog owner, after all. You can do anything!

8. You become acutely aware of the passing time.

If the length of a dog’s life was measured by the joy they bring and the love they offer, your pup would live forever. But unfortunately, a dog’s life is always shorter than what they deserve. The time between a playful puppy and the wise senior dog goes by quickly. And while individual days can seem to drag on, a dog’s life is never long enough. Dog owners are forced to learn this lesson of passing time. And as a result, we realize how much every day matters. We cherish every special moment we have with our dogs and hope that time will slow down and give us more games of fetch, more bedtime cuddles, and more love before our best friends are gone.

9. You start feeling happiest when you’re at home.

While non-dog owners are spending their evenings out of the house and feeling like a night at home is too boring to bear, dog owners think differently. Leaving the house gets a lot harder when you have a pair of puppy dog eyes begging you to stay home. When you have a dog, going to every party and accepting every social invite no longer seems so important. You’d much rather stay at home where you can spend quality time with your dog. And when you do decide to go out, you always have to ask, “Can my dog come too?”

10. You love in a way you never knew was possible.

There is no substitute for a dog’s unconditional love. Your dog doesn’t care if your clothes are in style or if you got that promotion at work. They don’t care if you live in a mansion or a shack. All your dog cares about is you and your friendship. When you look into a dog’s eyes, there’s no judgment or malice. There’s only love. Being on the receiving end of that love is more than enough to open your heart in ways you never knew possible. You begin to see that furry, four-legged pet as a family member you love beyond measure.

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