By Gabrielle Feldman
Every child at some point begs their parents for a puppy. As a parent, we can’t help but think of all of the added chores and financial obligations that come with owning a pet. But did you know it can actually benefit the health and development of your kids?
In honor of National Kids and Pets Day, we explore the advantages that kids who grow up with dogs have. The list could go on and on, so here are just a few:
#1 A Life Lesson in Responsibility
Looking for an opportunity to teach your child an important life lesson? Taking care of a living being is different than being responsible for unloading the dishwasher. From walking, bathing, feeding, and picking up after- these are all tasks that your child could do for the household pet.
#2 Kids Who Grow Up With Dogs are Healthier
Recent studies in pediatric health have concluded that children who lived with pets (but especially dogs) during their first year of life actually had a better immune system than those who did not. They believe that exposure to dogs may have positively boosted the maturation of their immune system during infancy. In addition, when they did fall ill, they needed a shorter course of antibiotics compared to the children who did not live with pets.
Another study found that children who were predisposed (at least one parent suffers from) respiratory allergies or asthma are much less likely to develop similar issues if they have a dog in the house. They found that early exposure is key. Children who had a dog after the first year of birth had no added health benefits.
Recent studies found that dogs actually protect children who are at risk for eczema. In fact, children with dog allergies, who did not have dogs in the home, were four times more likely to develop eczema than those who did.
#3 Better Emotional Intelligence
Everyone has heard of IQ, but have you thought about improving your child’s EQ (or emotional intelligence)? Owning a dog allows them to practice these skills and improves their emotional intelligence over time.
Caring for another life will require your child to become a more compassionate individual. Feeding or walking them, at times they may have other things they would rather be doing, will mean that they have to step outside of themselves, and practice being selfless. A teacher who participated in a study about classroom pets said, “Having pets is an INVALUABLE aid for helping the children gain pride, caring, and empathy for the needs of themselves and others”.
In addition, caring for a pet builds a child's self-esteem. Accomplishing small tasks (such as filling up their water dish) will help them feel like they are competent and will also give them a sense of accomplishment.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that children with dogs in the home had reduced anxiety levels and reduced amount of perceived stress. They believe that kids who interact with dogs have increased levels of oxytocin released into their brains. In short, DOGS = HAPPINESS (but you probably already knew that).
#4 More Play and Exercise
Trying to find a way to pry your kids off of the couch and away from screen time? Try adopting a dog! On average, children who have a dog in the home exercise an average of 11 minutes more per day than those who do not have a dog. Those minutes may not seem like a lot, but they add up to 5.5 hours a month and 66 hours per year! Some researchers believe that dog ownership may be a viable way to help combat childhood obesity.
Did you know that 1 in 45 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? That is nearly 2% of the entire population of children ages 2-17 years of age. Non-profits, such as Good Dog! Autism Companions have found that therapy dogs have an amazing impact on the quality of life and development of children with ASD. Some of the many benefits include:
- Dog provides a sense of security
- Decrease meltdowns
- Decrease anxiety and acts of aggression
- Increased willingness to try new things
- Increased ability to face a fearful situation
- Increases social interaction due to the dog being an ice breaker and taking the focus off the child’s disability
- Encourages verbal communication, increased vocabulary
To learn more about The Drake Center’s involvement with Good Dog! Autism Companions, and how you can help us champion this amazing organization, go here.
ADD and ADHD:
The most recent study in the United States found that 6.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Even more concerning, the rate increases almost 2% with every passing year. Some of the benefits of a ADD or ADHD therapy dog include:
- Dogs help create consistency and a routine
- Provides an outlet for excess energy to help aid in hyperactivity
- Dogs help children cope with isolation and depression
- They take the stress out of new social situations
All in all, adopting a dog may be one of the best decisions you ever make for your child!
Kids at The Drake Center in Encinitas, CA
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Blog Image Credit: Sebastian Garnier