Everyone Knows Dogs Are Man’s Best Friend, But Are They Also A Kid’s Best Friend? Science Says Yes!

why dogs are amazing for kids dogs are good for kids why dogs are great for kids

The many benefits of having a dog are no secret to most adult dog owners like me. Kilo the Pug is my pampered, snuggly, cute companion, muse, and walking buddy. My daughters call him “the favorite child”. They have grown up with multiple pets including dogs, as I did.

We are in production on a new half hour documentary exploring the research on dogs and kids for Talent Hounds and have just launched Kids’ Pet Club with facts and fun for pet-loving kids.

A dog is a lot of responsibility, and an investment of a family’s time, energy, and money.  Certain dog breeds may be better suited to kids and your lifestyle so do your research before you get one. Younger children and babies should be very carefully supervised with any pet but the positive effects can last a lifetime.

Here are a few reasons why we think families should consider dog ownership for kids:

#1: Dogs Can Provide Companionship

blond-girl-with-funny-littl-white-dog-at-dld
The first reason is one of the most import. A pet can provide children with a stable companion through the ups and downs of childhood. Dogs make especially good companions, and can keep your kids company as a furry play mate and trusted friend for many years.

#2: Dogs Can Encourage A More Active Lifestyle

Today many children are opting out of physical activity to play video games, or watch videos. Computer screens have replaced going outside for a game of catch with the neighbors.
Photo courtesy of @ranger.thegsd

Photo courtesy of @ranger.thegsd

Children who have dogs are much more active than their pet-free counterparts, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Public Health. It makes sense to me as having a dog means going outdoors for a walk, throwing a stick or even going on a family hike. Playing outside is much more enticing with a puppy pal. The benefits of physical activity for kids are well documented. We all know how crucial it is to start healthy habits early to stay fit for life. Having a dog may reduce a child’s future risk for obesity because of exercise but also because kids with pets tend to have a healthier gut due to the presence of healthy bacteria according to a study by the University of Alberta.

#3:  Dogs Can Teach Responsibility To Kids

No kid likes chores, but children can be encouraged to pick up more responsibility in a household by getting them involved in pet care. When chores are done for the sake of their pet, most kids are more likely to want to do them: especially when its fun things like going for a walk or giving their dog treats for tricks. Kids begin to learn that others can depend on them for their well-being, which is an important step to learning responsible habits.

Kids can even develop nurturing skills according to Gail F. Melson, PhD, developmental studies at Purdue University 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.”

Little boy reading to Black COPE dog

COPE Reading Buddy Program

#4: Kids May Feel More Comfortable Reading Aloud To A Pet

Literacy, and confidence in one’s ability to read, are extremely important. There is no better way to build up reading skills than reading aloud to a pet. Reading aloud can be quite daunting due to the added pressure of an audience. A dog listens but does not judge and does not correct mistakes. Patting a dog and the comforting presence can reduce stress and improve processing.

There has been much 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. Having a dog can provide a full time reading buddy.

Lulu
In one study  Mary Renck Jalongo, PhD,  University of Pennsylvania and author of The World of Children and Their Companion Animals, showed that children asked to read in front of a peer, an adult, and a dog were most relaxed around the animals.
A study by the Pet Health Council 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.”

#5: Cuddling A Pet May Reduce Stress

The most relaxing things in the world have tails and ears, according to science.

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 which leads to 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.  Kids and parents can often unwind better with their doggy-BFFs at their side.

#6: Children With Pets Have Better Social Skills

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 child’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 your child needs a bit of help developing and maintaining social bonds, a pet might act as a good first step in that direction.

kids-pet-club-white-dog-with-green-bow-tie-at-the-toronto-christmas-pet-show-day-2

#7: Dogs May Help Children Develop Empathy

Children tend to be self-focused. 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. This is known as the “theory of mind” and it has been studied by social and developmental psychologists.

Empathy and emotional intelligence can be fostered and encouraged in a child in many ways, including through a pet. Psychologist Robert Poresky has shown a correlation between attachment to a pet and higher empathy scores.

Talent Hounds Smiley the Blind Therapy Dog and his boy Shep

Smiley The Blind Therapy Dog and his boy

#8 Exposure To Pets May Reduce The Chance of Allergies 

According to a study by Dennis Ownby, MD, Pediatrician and Head of the Allergy and Immunology department of the Medical College of Georgia, having a dog might decrease your kid’s chance of developing an allergy.

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 rates of allergic disease. 

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“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.

#9 Cute Puppy Playmates May Improve Learning And Behaviour.

Puppies are adorable and this factor may also help a child’s ability to reason and think complex thoughts. In a 1989 study by Joan F Goodman, toddlers with pets had better motor skills and cognitive development than those that lived in homes without pets.

Do You Know What A Dog Can See?

A 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 could boost attention to detail, overall performance and memory in their participants.

Therapy dogs have also shown incredible changes in focus, attention, and cooperation levels within classrooms.

Has having a dog improved your family’s life? Do you believe kids should have pets? Tell us in the comments.

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10 Comments

  • We always lived in apartments when I was growing up and were not able to have dogs. I think these are great reasons why it’s good for a child to have a dog, and sometimes I wish I could have had one. That being said, my cats were excellent companions and I definitely blossomed in different ways because of them.

  • We had sogs when I was a young kid, we loved them to bits. Having a pet makes a child more aware and responsible about life and pet care. Every child should have a pet or have access to animals on a regular basis!

  • I’ve always had cats in my life however have always appreciated dogs. They not only teach kids responsibility, give companionship and help allow kids to socialize, dogs are also known to help autistic kids.And therapy dogs have been used to help victims of abuse as well. So many reasons why they really are man (and kids) best friend.

  • These are all wonderful reasons for kids to be raised with dogs, and all that I see myself every day. I can’t imagine not having grown up with animals and want the same for my daughters.

  • I love everything about this post! Dogs are amazing, for kids young and old. They have a lot to teach, that’s for sure.

  • YES!!! Love every point you made! And as long as parents teach the children how to behave properly with pets it’s a win win all the way around!

  • I grew up with dogs and loved the time I spent with them. I remember going out to the yard with my Collie and talking to him and crying in his fur.

  • SO many health benefits of owning a dog, but I think it’s especially great for children. I always had a dog by my side, and it made me so much more compassionate.

  • I grew up with dogs, and my kids have also had dogs most of their lives. (There was a 4 year in my life without dogs and so 3 of my kids lived without dogs for those years.) I think dogs are wonderful for all the reasons listed above and more!

  • Great post! I have lived my whole life with pets. I truly believe that pets can teach responsibility and improve learning abilities for kids.