9 Reasons Dogs and Kids Go Together Like PB&J
The bond between a child and their pet can be a very special thing. We all know how pets, and dogs in particular, provide unconditional love and bring so much joy to our lives, and this can be especially true for the littlest ones in the household. The benefits children can reap from growing up with a dog can be powerful and long-lasting and can affect many parts of their lives and early development.
1. Pets can encourage physical development in children, including motor skill development. Having a dog encourages exercise and spending time out of doors for the child, through taking the dog for walks, playing games of fetch and catch outside. Dogs encourage running, jumping and movement skills through play, as well as the development of fine motor skills through scooping and pouring kibble, filling water dishes and participating in grooming practices.
2. Pets have a great effect on social skills for children in many areas. Children are more likely to approach and interact with another child playing with a pet. The fun of playing with a pet gives unacquainted children something to talk about, and provides a shared interest to connect over. Many children regard their pets as friends, even their best friend, and turn to them for a playmate when they are bored. Pets can often be one of a child’s first social relationships; they accept children as they are, and offer unconditional love and support as well as companionship.
3. Pets also encourage family bonding- having pets can make families grow stronger and closer, and pets are usually regarded as part of the family. Many family activities focus around the pet, such as taking the dog for a daily walk, and pets become an important avenue for familial interaction and activity.
4. Pets can play a large role in emotional development for a child. Pets can play the role of comforter and confidant for a child; they are non-judgmental and are great listeners. Children are able to confide secrets to their pets, and express emotions to a pet that they might not be able to express elsewhere, providing them with a place of emotional safety and acceptance.
5. Pets can also encourage self-esteem and a sense of responsibility in children- while it is up to parents to teach children what responsibility is, pets make good vehicles for learning firsthand what it is to actually have responsibility for something. Being able to take responsibility for certain tasks for a pet can boost a child’s self-esteem, by giving them a sense of accomplishment and making them feel independent and competent in executing those tasks well for their beloved animal friend.
6. Having a pet can teach children empathy and nurturing. As pets are very reliant on their owners for basic necessities, children learn to read their pet’s needs, and respond to their cues for hunger, thirst, the need to go outside, affection and attention, and so on. Having a pet encourages nurturing skills, by providing children with a living being to learn and practice early caregiving skills on. Learning those early nurturing skills from a pet can be especially important for boys, who don’t often play with dolls or ‘play house’ as a means for developing those skills. Pets teach children kindness, gentleness and compassion through learning to properly interact and care with a loving creature that gives unconditional love, companionship and support in return.
7. Pets can support cognitive development in children; they can spark an interest in certain animals, breeds, how to care for them, etc. creating a desire to learn more, and sometimes a long-term interest. Pets can also help to facilitate improving a child’s verbal skills- talking to their pets encourages language development and acquisition, both with the pet acting as the recipient of the child’s chattering, encouraging the child to explore language and words, as well as prompting the child to learn the words needed to elicit a response from the pet, such as “sit”, “stay”, “good dog” and the like. Children who have difficulty reading often experience more success when reading to their pets instead of peers, teachers or parents.
8. Pets can also teach children about the circle of life. Learning about both death and birth via animals can be an easier way for both parents and children to talk about and understand these basics of life. While it may be very difficult for a child to deal with the death of a beloved pet, it provides parents the opportunity to talk openly with their child about the feelings that come with death, and provide an example to the child of how to cope with death and the emotions it evokes. Those types of experiences often become an important learning experience that they will likely always remember and influence them throughout their lives, so it is important for it be positive and open experience for children. Experiencing or coming into contact with birth through animals can be an equally important way for parents to begin to talk with their children about sex.
9. Some studies have indicated that having a pet, especially during the first years of life, can decrease illnesses in children and boost their immune systems. Exposure to bacteria from animals licking their face or hands that are then ingested may change the way a child’s immune system responds to allergens. This could potentially decreases a child’s risk for developing certain allergies; indoor allergens such as pet and dust mites, as well as outdoor allergens like ragweed and grass, along with suggesting that having pets in the first years of life could reduce a child’s chance of developing asthma. Some research also shows that children who live in a household with pets get sick less often, with fewer ear infections and respiratory problems early in life.
So it seems there are very many ways that children may benefit from growing up with a pet. There are always considerations that must be made when deciding whether to get a pet, but if you have a family or want one eventually, there are benefits to having both children and pets, especially if you take children into account when choosing a dog breed. There are many breeds that are well known to be good with children that make great family pets and would make wonderful furry friends for your little ones.