Many adults look back fondly on the childhood adventures they shared with their furry best friend. Dogs have been companions to humans for thousands of years. They act as playmates, protectors and buddies to adults and children alike.
Owning a dog has countless benefits for the whole family. For example, a child’s psychological and physical development can greatly improve when growing up in a household that has a pet dog or dogs.
Dogs are a delightful creature to add to any family’s home. Children, especially, often create a special relationship with their family’s dog. In turn, dogs are almost always inherently gentle with kids, no matter what size breed they are.
Benefits of Raising Children and Dogs in the Same Household
It sounds crazy, but early exposure to dogs can be good for a baby’s immune system. Children who are routinely around dogs and their germs are less likely to develop allergies and asthma later in life.
But that’s not the only benefit of children growing up around dogs. Other benefits include:
1. It Teaches Them Responsibility
Dogs are a lot of work. They need to be fed, exercised and routinely taken outdoors to do their business. Many children bribe their parents into getting a puppy by promising to do all the work involved. This tactic is effective, but often results in the parents getting stuck with the responsibility.
However, remaining firm on the bargain can help young children learn how to be responsible. Chores relating to the dog can be assigned based on the age of the child. For example, a 10-year-old is old enough to walk the dog (with supervision,) while a 4-year-old could be in charge of feeding the pet.
2. Dogs are Faithful Companions
Dogs generally choose one person in the family to bestow all their loyalty. The four-legged friend will sleep with the designated favorite and follow them wherever they go. This kind of faithful behavior can teach children how friendship works and to give their human friends the same loyalty as their dog gives them.
Even though a dog will follow their humans around, they still need a place in the home to retreat to when they need a break. Giving your dog their own space allows them a sense of security and coziness of their ancestry of living in a den. Dogs are pack animals but sometimes they prefer to be alone.
3. Children Learn Empathy
Having a dog in the house can help teach children to consider the feelings of someone other than themselves. Dogs exhibit a vulnerability that shows children how to adapt their behavior to avoid causing pain. For example, young children must be taught to touch or pet a dog gently so as not to cause the dog discomfort or fear.
As sad as it is, dogs don’t live long lives compared to humans. A child who grows up with a dog will eventually have to face the dog’s death. This can actually help them learn how to deal with their emotions and how to grieve a loss.
4. It Makes Them More Active
If dogs don’t get enough exercise, they can become restless and destructive or obese from inactivity. Children can be described the same way. However, to a child, walking the dog is viewed as an adventure or time with their best buddy instead of essential exercise they need for development.
Even throwing a ball for the family dog can provide both the dog and the child with much-needed exercise. Many children would be content to play with a dog for hours on end and the dog would be equally content!
5. Dogs Reduce Stress and Anxiety
There’s a reason dogs are being used as therapy dogs in airports, colleges and at home. It could be their understanding eyes or their soft fur, but something about petting a dog is an immediate stress reliever.
Children with anxiety disorders often find relief by petting a dog. Some dogs, depending on temperament, can be trained to recognize signs of anxiety and assist the person suffering from panic attacks in calming down.
Dogs Are a Lifetime Commitment
Before you load your children in the car and rush off to a shelter to adopt a dog, it’s important to consider if a dog is the right fit for your family. Dogs require a lot of attention and can take a few weeks or months to adjust to a new home and new surroundings. Anyone considering adding a pet to their home should take stock of how much time and effort they truly have to devote to their new addition.
Raising children and dogs together is a noble endeavor. Many families find that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. However, young children often claim naming rights and you may end up with a dog named Waffle, Peanut, Pickles or whatever your child’s favorite food is that day.