There are many valuable benefits to having a dog in your home. But sometimes, not everyone is on board with adding a new, fluffy, member of the family. Taking good care of a dog can be a lot of work! Is it really worth it? For a lot of kids’ development, dogs can play a big role and be well worth the sacrifice of caring for them. Here are some reasons that having a dog is great for your family and your child’s development.
1. Dogs Reduce Social & Separation Anxiety
This has been a stressful year for everyone, and your kids are no exception. While your young children may not completely understand everything about the pandemic and other global calamities, they probably picked up that adults around them were more stressed and anxious than usual—and became more anxious themselves.
The good news is that dogs can help! A study conducted by the CDC shows that children who lived in a home with a dog were nearly half as likely to suffer from social anxiety as those who did not have a dog. Dogs can help ground your child during a surge of anxiety and give them someone to look forward to coming home to after a playdate or daycare. If your child is struggling with social anxiety or separation anxiety at daycare, at school or at home, getting a dog may serve to ease your child’s anxiety. If your child has general anxiety issues, a loving, playful companion can have a calming effect that can help your child release tension and endure stressful times.
2. Dogs Help Kids Have Healthy Exercise Habits
The last thing children need is to be stuck inside looking at a screen all day. Having a dog that requires consistent exercise is a great way to get outside and move regularly. Taking the dog on a walk will motivate both you and your kids to go for a morning stroll or an afternoon trip to the park and get some fresh air and exercise. Since dogs need daily walks to stay healthy, have your child take them on a stroll around the block or simply have them accompany you if they’re not old enough to hold the leash on their own. Dogs’ love for adventures is often contagious, and if you own one you’ll most likely find your kids getting outside and doing fun things more than they would have otherwise.
3. Dogs Teach Responsibility
Caring for a dog is surprisingly similar to caring for a child—it’s a lot of responsibility. They require food, water, exercise, grooming, and lots of love. Having your child be in charge of the dog and making sure their needs are met will quickly teach them responsibility.
Once the “newness” of having a dog wears off, it will be easy for your child to forget about taking care of it, and you’ll have to pick up the slack. If you make sure your child knows that the dog is their responsibility and that they are completely in charge of them, they’ll make sure their animal is taken care of. Learning to responsibly take care of a dog will likely help them to be more organized and reliable in other parts of their lives as well.
4. Dogs Provide Unconditional Friendship
Making friends is difficult no matter what age you are. Since a lot of schools are still having kids learn from home, and many group activities are cancelled for the foreseeable future, it can be hard for young kids to find friends when they’re stuck at home all day. But having a dog around the house means they have a friend to turn to whenever they need one. Dogs are great companions and give people unconditional love and friendship. If your kid is struggling to make human friends, or isn’t allowed to see friends in-person, your dog will always be there for them.
It can also be hard on the parent to see their kid struggling to make friends or if they’re not able to be with them face-to-face. Knowing they have an animal friend to turn to will help you feel better as well when they are stuck in the house alone.
5. Dogs Help Kids Meet New Friends
If you have a shy child, dogs are a great way to get them out of the house and meet new people. They’re a great conversation starter for adults, and can help bring children together when playing with the dog. If you have a dog park in your area, take your child with you and let them play with other dogs, families, and kids. Use this time as a chance as a parent to connect with families in your neighborhood. Maybe they have a child near your kid’s age and you can set up a playdate for the kids and the dogs. Who knows, maybe having a dog will be the icebreaker for your child to find a lifelong friend.
Getting a new dog is a big change for everyone in your family, not just your child. You need to make sure that everyone in your home is on board with adding a new family member before you head over to your local dog store (or better yet, animal shelter). But once you bring your new dog home, you’ll start to see gratifying improvements in your child’s behavior, mental health, and maturity.