Not only do children who grow up with pets have less risk of allergies and asthma, but many also learn responsibility, compassion, and empathy from having a dog or cat.
- Unlike parents or teachers, pets are never critical and don’t give orders. They are always loving and their mere presence at home can help provide a sense of security in children. Having an ever-present dog can help ease separation anxiety in children when mum and dad aren’t around.
- Having the love and companionship of a loyal dog can make a child feel important and help him or she develop a positive self-image.
- Kids who are emotionally attached to their dog are better able to build relationships with other people.
- Studies have also shown that dogs can help calm hyperactive or overly aggressive kids. Of course, both the dog and the child need to be trained to behave appropriately with each other.
Children and adults alike can benefit from playing with dogs, which can be both a source of calmness and relaxation, as well as a source of stimulation for the brain and body.
Playing with a dog can even be a doorway to learning for a child. It can stimulate a child’s imagination and curiosity.
The rewards of training a dog to perform a new trick, for example, can teach kids the importance of perseverance.
Pets are an integral part of our lives as Australians. About 80% of Australians have an animal companion at some time. Pets are important in children's lives as they provide enjoyment and help children develop responsibilities transferable to adulthood. Sometimes pet relationships are ranked higher than certain kinds of human relationships for comfort, esteem, support and confidence. Some benefits of pet ownership have been identified in areas of child development, family harmony and even health.
Caring for a furry friend can also offer another benefit to a child: immense joy.
Having a relationship with a pet can help develop such skills as:
- Nurturing skills
- A caring attitude
The children develop the following for themselves:
- Have higher self-esteem
- Have improved social skills
- Are more likely to be physically active, and less likely to be overweight or obese
Pet ownership also has a beneficial effect on family harmony. Research shows that families with a pet:
- Spend a lot more time interacting
- Have a basis for fun activities and friendly conversation including the important topics of life
The relaxation and relief from stress provided by animal companionship also yields health benefits for parents. In comparison with their pet-less counterparts, pet owners:
- Have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Have fewer minor illnesses and complaints
- Visit the doctor less often
Whilst owning a dog can be a delightful family experience and has enormous benefits for the child and the family, parents need to be aware of the risk of injury from dog bites. Many dog bites occur when children are playing around dogs. Sometimes young children can unintentionally be rough and unrelenting. Their high-pitched squeals and uncoordinated attempts at showing affection may cause the dog to feel threatened and it may act defensively or trigger a chase response.
Discourage rough, inappropriate play, as this may overexcite, upset or hurt the dog. Explain that a dog should never be hurt or teased. Teach children to call you rather than remove or reclaim a toy by themselves, from a dog as the dog may become possessive of a toy.
Feeding the dog is an "adults only" activity. This is because correct nutrition is important and because dogs may become protective of their food or bones. Dogs should always be separated from children when eating. Children should be taught not to approach a dog that is eating or gnawing on a bone. Teach children to call you rather than attempt to reclaim their own dropped food from a dog.
Teach children not to disturb a sleeping dog. If you need to wake the dog, call the dog from a distance to allow it time to become oriented. Children should be taught not to approach a sleeping dog.
Provide the dog with a bed that is separated from noisy high-activity areas. This will minimise the risk of unintentionally waking the dog. The dog needs a place, such as a crate or a kennel, where it can get away if it is tired, not well or does not want to be cuddled.