If you grew up with a beloved dog, you know that the benefits of being raised with pets can be priceless. Your dog helped you form and sustain a close bond, have an active childhood, and much more. On the flip side, you might have a sense that you missed out on something essential. Dogs bring incredible emotional and physical benefits to the experience of childhood, and contribute to early development in significant and surprising ways.
Remember that dogs and children should always be supervised when they’re together. If you need a helping hand to look after your pup on a busy day, go to Rover.com for dynamic, reliable caregivers.
A Compassionate Spirit
Caring for a pet deepens compassion in two ways: Dogs model one of the purest and most devoted forms of love, and looking after them gives children a chance to practice selfless giving. Empathy and loving kindness make us better people; they can truly transform our world into a better place. As your child grows and accompanies your dog through different phases of life, their intimate bond will lead your child toward a more compassionate spirit. Each time they set aside their desire for another half-hour of TV to take the pup on a walk instead, or find themselves comforted after a rough day at school by a listening ear attached to a cuddly friend, their canine companion will teach them a little more about what it is to be human.
Powerful Immune Protection
There are many threats to health and safety today, and a strong immune system is important for every child to thrive–and become a thriving adult. Being raised with dogs reduces rates of respiratory problems like asthma and ear infections, and young children in pet-owning homes are less likely to need antibiotics. Infants who spend time around dogs are less likely to develop allergy-based illnesses, too. Dogs who spend significant time indoors and outdoors provide the greatest immune boost (more than indoor-only dogs, outdoor-only dogs, and cats).
According to pediatrician and educator Kenneth Fox, “Exposure to the pet increases what we would call subclinical doses of germs, germs that are not invasive and are of low virulence, and so this exposure had some impact on immune regulation.” Even better? Kids who grow up with pets are less likely to develop pet allergies than other children. That means they’ll be able to spend their lives enjoying all the other benefits of owning a dog!
Strength and Cardiovascular Health
Wrangling an excited puppy on their leash and running around the yard for an afternoon romp are excellent ways for a growing child to achieve robust physical health. Kids with dogs get outside more, play more actively, and develop a deep and lasting love for spending time in nature. Whether you go hiking as a family or let your child take over care tasks, each day with your pet will provide ample opportunities to build stamina and strength. Be sure that the activities are age-appropriate, and watch out for injury potential–size, temperament, and other factors should be taken into account. But as your child grows, they’ll have a good sense of what they’re capable of, and their active lifestyle will have a lasting impact.
Dogs are so effective at helping people overcome their fears and assisting shy kids that they’re often specially trained to inculcate bravery in people of all ages. Service animals and therapy dogs can aid children with physical, developmental, or mental disabilities–and the support they provide gives their human partners more independence, confidence, and courage. Even an untrained pup can go a long way towards helping a child develop these skills. They might get better at talking to strangers because their pet is an automatic conversation-starter, or be more willing to take a risk when they see their pet tackling a scary situation.
Want to adopt a service dog or find out how to connect with a therapy animal? Look to the American Kennel Club for therapy dog organizations and Assistance Dogs International to find service dog organizations in your area.
Still not sure whether your family is ready to bring home a dog of your own? Rover makes it easy to get started as a pet-sitter, and reap the benefits of pet ownership without making a huge commitment. Your kids will be ecstatic either way!
Written by Nat Smith, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.