Dogs and children can be the best of friends when raised together and can offer a number of benefits to each other, including everything from increased playtime to happier mindsets. Read on to find out more about the advantages of dogs and children growing up together.
Most children love dogs. They're cute, cuddly, and oh-so-friendly. But did you know that growing up with a dog can actually benefit a child's physical and psychological development? Here are some of the many benefits of dogs being in children's lives.
1. Constant companionship
Although childhood isn't always easy, having a pet provides constant companionship through the ups and downs. Dogs can be a great source of comfort for kids - even when they're coming to grips with difficult life lessons. Whenever kids feel sad, angry, or afraid, they can always turn to their pet. Petting and cuddling dogs has also been shown to relieve stress and help people relax.
2. A more active lifestyle
Caring for a dog also encourages a more active lifestyle. Children with dogs exercise eleven minutes a day more than their non-dog owning peers. That might not sound like a lot, but over a week or month, it really adds up. Many dogs require daily walks or runs and plenty of play time. Those adorable puppy eyes they give you are sure to motivate you - even when you're not feeling up to it. Here are a few fun dog exercise ideas that will keep all the family moving.
3. Learning responsibility
Having a pet is a great way to teach responsibility to kids. Making sure that the family dog has food and water gives children a first glimpse of accountability and obligation. Children also learn empathy and compassion by caring for their pet, while developing a higher level of self-esteem by taking care of their pet-owning responsibilities.
4. Health is wealth
Studies have found that babies raised in close contact with a pet get sick less often in their first year of life, meaning fewer visits to the doctor's office. Exposure to pet dander and the microbes that pets carry into the home from the outdoors is suggested to improve babies' developing immune systems. Research has also found that children who grow up with dogs experience a reduced risk of allergies.
5. Learning unconditional love
Kids are the center of attention in any family and they quickly learn that the world revolves around them. This is why it's important to expose them to concepts such as unconditional love or loyalty. What better teacher than our canine companions?
6. Encouragement for speaking
Dogs provide countless opportunities for kids to practice talking. Whether it's calling the dog by their name, asking them to perform simple dog commands such as sit or stay, or just babbling, kids will be eager to get chatting with their new friend.
Dogs can also help children with speech difficulties by keeping them relaxed and entertained. They're often employed as the non-judgmental talking partner, making speech therapy less challenging and more fun for the little ones.
7. Protection and care
We've all heard stories of hero dogs saving babies from intruders, impending disasters or dangerous animals. Dogs are our trusted guardians. And when it comes to children, they truly let their protective nature take over. They'll look after the human "puppies" as if they are their own, never letting their guard down.
8. More time spent outdoors
Whether it's daily walks around the neighbourhood or trips to the park, having a canine companion offers plenty of good reasons to take the whole family out of the house and away from the screens.
9. Bonding with siblings
Parents have a golden opportunity to encourage team work and cooperation between siblings by adding a pet to the family. Dog walking and dog feeding can become shared responsibilities, and when play time comes around, joining in on the fun of having a dog running around in the garden will bring them closer together.
10. Don't worry, be happy!
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of dogs in early childhood is simply that they make children happy! Interaction with animals has been proven to raise levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are the chemical building blocks of positive feelings. All science aside, playing and interacting with dogs is just plain fun - and it's bound to brighten any child's day. Growing up with a dog can enrich the lives of children in so many ways. Having a dog join your family may be one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids.
Want to find out more about your dog's behaviour? Check out our article on teaching children to care for dogs and cats, next.