Dogs have well and truly earned their reputation as being “man’s best friend,” and it’s no wonder that they make exceptional companions for children too. Whether they’re playing around in the backyard or sharing some downtime, having a dog by a growing child’s side can significantly boost their development. Here are 5 ways that a family dog can help children thrive.
1. Teaches Responsibility & Boosts Self-Esteem
Owning a dog is a huge responsibility and commitment. Bringing children along for the journey is a valuable opportunity to instill a sense of responsibility in children from an early age. When children are actively involved in caring for a dog, they can learn the importance of dependability and accountability. From feeding and grooming to ensuring their furry friend gets enough exercise and affection, kids can learn that their actions directly impact their dog’s well-being. Giving children this sense of purpose and responsibility can also boost their self-esteem and confidence in other aspects of their life.
2. Increases Sense of Identity & Belonging
A study in the Pediatric Review found that the special connection that naturally forms between a child and the dog they grow up with, nurtures a sense of identity and belonging. Dogs offer unconditional love and can provide children with a stable and nonjudgemental foundation of love and support.
3. Instills Compassion & Empathy
A comprehensive analysis of scientific studies conducted by Endenburg and Baarda highlighted that children entrusted with the responsibility of caring for their dogs tend to display heightened levels of compassion and empathy towards both animals and humans. Additionally, a study conducted in 2020 highlighted the positive correlation between dog ownership and the development of social-emotional skills in children.
4. Reduces Levels of Anxiety & Stress
Undoubtedly, the presence of a dog in one’s life is a source of boundless joy. Beyond the delight they bring, studies have revealed the remarkable ability of dogs to alleviate anxiety and stress. As children navigate the various stages of development, they often encounter moments of anxiety. Engaging in activities such as petting and playing with a dog has been scientifically demonstrated as an effective means to reduce these feelings.
5. Increases Levels of Activity
Owning a dog naturally encourages an active lifestyle. Dog owners tend to engage in more physical activity, whether it’s a walk in the neighborhood or playtime in the backyard. A study from the Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia found that children in dog-owning households have eight additional weekly sessions of unstructured physical activity compared to those without dogs. These interactions not only benefit children’s health but also foster a more active lifestyle, setting the stage for a healthier future.
In conclusion, the partnership between children and dogs is extremely special, with numerous benefits contributing to a child’s development. The presence of a canine friend in a child’s life brings joy, valuable life lessons, and a sense of belonging that can leave a lasting, positive impact for years to come.