Colorado is frequently ranked high on lists of the most dog-friendly places. Denver has gotten positive feedback for its overall dog-friendliness, including rankings on the dog-centric community website Rover and financial consulting company SmartAsset. Match.com ranked Colorado as the number one dog loving state.

Spending quality time with pets, specifically dogs, provides humans with companionship and can improve health. From a physiological standpoint, being with your dog can release feel-good hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin that elevate your mood. There are also other ways in which they can increase your health and  longevity.

Increased physical activity. Dogs are more likely than other house pets to beg for play or exercise, encouraging owners to take more frequent walks or exercise with their dogs. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found dog owners were more likely to get mild to moderate physical activity during the week than non-dog owners, making them more likely to get the recommended 30-minute minimum of exercise per day.

Decreased allergy risk. Dogs may be a trigger for people with allergies, but they can reduce allergy risk for kids growing up with them. Pregnant women who live with a dog can reduce the likelihood of their child developing allergies. A 2004 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found exposure to dogs in infancy, especially around the time of birth, can actually influence children’s immune development while reducing the probability of certain allergic diseases.

Improved microbiome diversity.  A 2013 study at the University of Colorado found that humans share microbes with their dogs and that couples who live together are more likely to share their microbes with each other if they own a dog. Why? One person is likely to pet and cuddle their pooch, leaving their microbes on the pet’s fur. Later when the other partner pets the same dog, they pick up microbes from both the dog and the other human.

This is great news because a diverse microbiome is beneficial to your health. Our bodies contain around eight million genes, but only a tiny percentage are human. The rest are created by our microbiomes – bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts – and they coat our skin, mouth, gut-lining, and just about everything else. The less varied our microbiome is, the more susceptible we are to diseases.