Author: Cindi Lou Grant
Growing up without a family dog, I can attest to how much I wish that wasn't the case. That feeling has grown stronger with recent studies coming out that show the unintended benefits for children who grow up with these cherished companions. My assumption was that the benefits would be all about building a bond with a dog, but studies prove it's way beyond that.
Here are 4 ways having a family dog will increase your children's health.
Gets kids outside!
Dogs need the outdoors and will make sure they get it! Puppies especially will let you know through destruction when they're not getting enough outdoor exercise. Going with or even sending your kids to walk the dog is a great excuse to get them outside. Dogs are also very loyal guardians and will give you some piece of mind if you're sending kids out alone for the first time.
We live in a society hell-bent on becoming sterile, and as a result, children are not being exposed to enough bacteria and stimulants that help form a robust immune system. The Journal of Pediatrics pointed out that kids who grow up with dogs are less likely to get sick than children who live without. They also connected family dogs to a lower risk of allergies. In fact, a study on mice found that exposure to household dust from homes with a dog prevented infection with a common respiratory virus that is linked to childhood asthma.
Not only are children who grow up with pets less afraid of animals in general, they grow up more able to adapt to scary circumstances. Having a dog teaches children through experience about which dogs are friendly and which ones may not be. The perspective gained is that most domestic animals are not something to be unnecessarily fearful of. Dogs often become less of a pet and more of a family member. Many kids bond with their dogs who offer comfort and companionship when sad, angry, or lonely in the unconditional way that only a dog can. Even in death, dogs teach kids about grief and how to deal with it which is massively beneficial in shaping a kid's emotional development.
Domestic dogs are not self-sufficient; they need food, water, hygiene, exercise, love, and attention. Giving children some of these tasks from a young age is a great and subtle way of teaching accountability and responsibility. They also get to learn those lessons in a real life and non-conceptual way that will engrain and stay with them for a lifetime.
If you needed any more justification to add a 4-legged family member, I hope this gives it to you. Here at Sawyer we have many favorite quotes, but one of the best is "A boy needs two things, a dog and a mother who is willing to let him have one." Boy or girl, we love dogs and all the enrichment they bring into our lives! If you are on still the fence about adopting a family pet, you know what side we're on. Also, check out some amazing animals that need homes at Best Friends.