Pets, especially dogs, can be a great addition to the family. Do you know all the reasons why?
Did you know that growing up with a pet like a dog may actually help the health and well-being of children in numerous ways? Pets can provide judgement free love and support, help kids build relationships, boost their self-esteem, and help to lower stress levels for the whole family (as long as the pet is trained). Learning life lessons like responsibility and collaboration, along with exercise and companionship can also be amazing benefits.
Many of us remember begging our parents for pets as children, with what seemed like pretty good evidence like “Todd down the street has one!” and “I got good grades!” If our parents still refused, we vowed to allow our future children the puppies and kitties we never had. However, fast forward to having children, juggling family, finances and a job, and trying to keep the house clean and pets may seem like the last thing we want to add to the mix.
Pets can definitely be an investment of time and money, but there are some really good reasons why you may want to consider getting your child a pet:
#2: Caring For A Pet Like a Dog Encourages A More Active Lifestyle and May Reduce Obesity Risks
Getting out for daily activity is a huge positive for a child’s well-being, encouraging a future healthy lifestyle.
#3: Having A Pet Is A Great Way To Teach Responsibility To Kids
Kids can be forgetful and are sometimes tempted to slack off on household chores. Having a pet makes daily care a labour of love. The requirements of animals can become a child’s favourite activities if it means helping out their new pet BFF, which is the start to taking on more responsibility later down the line. With a cute puppy or kitten depending on them, a child is learning that others depend on their actions.
Nurturing an animal is a great way to develop “parenting” and caring skills early, particularly in boys who may not spend as much time with dolls or babysitting, according to Gail F. Melson, PhD, professor emeritus of developmental studies at Purdue University, in Indiana, and the author of Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. “People need a way to practice being caregivers when they’re young.”
#4: Kids Learning To Read Often Feel More Comfortable Reading Aloud To A Pet
Literacy is a skill that is kids must learn in order to be successful at school and in life, and what better way to encourage reading by asking them to tell or read stories to their pets? Having an audience is a great motivator for learning to read, but sometimes reading to classmates or parents can be intimidating for a child. Reading to a pet is a judgement-free correction-free way to let a child practise.
We have seen tremendous success with reading programs and dogs in schools and libraries for example with the COPE Reading Buddy Program, Gizmo’s Frens and the Therapy Pugs. It makes sense that a dog or cat or other pet at home could be equally beneficial.
#5: Cuddling A Pet Reduces Stress, Loneliness, And Anxiety
There is nothing more relaxing than having a kitten purr on your lap or a puppy sleeping by your side. Science proves it.
According to research by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “Pet owners are less likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression than non-pet owners.”
Studies have shown that looking at and patting a puppy can lower levels of stress hormones, lower blood pressure and raise levels of feel good hormones. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found evidence that humans who interact with dogs see an increase in their oxytocin levels and a boost in mood.
“There’s lots of evidence now (we take physiological measures) that the touch of a familiar, friendly dog makes your breathing more regular and your heartbeat slows, and muscle tension goes down, and all those nasty corticosteroids, stress hormones, start to reduce. These are the same effects that you get in some of the anti-stress types of drugs. And it also explains one of the reasons why dogs are so comforting to us. They’re comforting to us because they’re actually causing the physiological change associated with stress reduction.” Dr. Stanley Coren- Psychology Professor, Neuropsychological Researcher, Author
Pets can be trained to help with autism, mental illness, anxiety and the symptoms of depression and PTSD. NSD Chester has made an incredible difference in the life of his boy Max in the video above.
#6: Children With Pets Display Improved Social Skills And Self-Esteem
According to an article by the Pet Health Council, kids who have pets usually improve their social skills along with their self-esteem. Self-esteem is a hugely important part of a kid’s development. According to the study, “children with low-self esteem may talk to, or confide in, an animal in ways they would not with people.”
If a child is struggling with social skills, a pet might be a great way to teach valuable interaction lessons.
The study also concluded that kids “ are often more confident in performing tasks they find difficult with an animal simply because the animal does not care if mistakes are made, nor will the child be afraid of looking silly in front of the animal.”
A pet is the perfect, safe, way for a child to explore their social world.
#7: Teaching Children Empathy
Young kids can be pretty focused on themselves. Taking the time to think about others can be hard for them. The ability to consider that other people have their own thoughts, feelings, and desires typically develops in a child between the ages of 4 and 5 and is the precursor to empathy.
Empathy and emotional intelligence can be fostered and encouraged in a child in many ways, including getting a pet. Psychologist Robert Poresky has shown a correlation between attachment to a pet and higher empathy scores. Pets allow a child to take an animals feelings and desires into account in a fun way. Knowing a dog likes belly rubs may be the start to comprehending more complex psychological phenomenon.
#8 Exposure to Pets May Reduce Allergies and Improve Immunity
According to a study by Dennis Ownby, MD, a pediatrician and head of the allergy and immunology department of the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta, having multiple pets actually decreases a child’s risk of developing certain allergies. His research tracked a group of 474 babies from birth to about age 7.
A recent study conducted by the University of Alberta showed that babies with families who have pets showed higher levels of two types of gut microbes associated with lower risks of obesity and allergic disease. It is believed that the bacteria from the pets is transferred to the babies helping them to develop an immunity to them.
“There’s definitely a critical window of time when gut immunity and microbes co-develop, and when disruptions to the process result in changes to gut immunity” says Anita Kozyrskyj, a pediatric epidemiologist at the University of Alberta. Source: https://www.ualberta.ca/news-and-events/newsarticles/2017/april/pet-exposure-may-reduce-allergy-and-obesity
#9 Looking at Cute Baby Pets like Puppies and Kittens and Playing with Pets May Improve Learning
Playing with and looking at cute pets is fun, but it may also help a child’s ability to reason and think complex thoughts. In a 1989 study by Laurel A Redefer and Joan F Goodman, toddlers with pets had better motor skills and cognitive development than those that lived in homes without pets.
Published online in the journal PlosOne, the Japanese research paper, entitled “The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behavior and Narrows Attentional Focus,” concluded that looking at cute images can boost attention to detail, overall performance and memory. The study was done with older students and adults but I have no doubt it can help kids too.
An Austrian study demonstrated better attentiveness, improved behavior, more cooperation between children and reduced noise in classrooms when therapy dogs were introduced to primary school programs. This is good news for households with dogs and kids.
#10: Pets Can Detect Health Issues such as Cancer, Seizures or Low Blood Sugar
It is shown that pets can sense when there is something going on inside a person’s body. There are a lot of cases where a person’s pet has helped them realize that they have a tumour or low blood sugar. Some patients with epilepsy have even reported that their dog is able to tell when they are about to have a seizure. “Dogs alert in different ways … Most of them become visibly distressed in some way. They will start licking their person or pawing at them. It’s extremely common for the dog to tug their person toward the ground, as if they want them to lie down.” says Jennifer Arnold, founder of Canine Assistants in Georgia.
Nettle, an intelligent, two-year-old Yellow Labrador Service Dog with a truly keen sense of smell, joined the Bordman family in 2013. She provided Terry and Beata Bordman with a much needed extra set of paws to help care for their 12-year-old twin daughters Brooke and Jade who suffer from two life-threatening conditions: Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac disease. Nettle saved Jade’s life when she went into an unexpected diabetic crisis in the middle of the night.
Bonus # Dogs may also keep your home safer.
There is evidence that homes with dogs are less likely to get broken into so that can be an added bonus.
Questions to Ask Before You Get a Pet
Of course, you should ask these questions before you adopt or buy a pet because pets can be an expensive demanding long term commitment:
- Do I have the time to care for my pets daily?
- Do pets fit our lifestyle? Do we travel often? Do we have space?
- Do I have the money for vet bills and pet costs?
- Can I supervise my children with an animal?
- Does the animal get along with kids?
- Do I have the time to train a pet?
What was the reason you got a pet for your family? We would love to know!