Parents want the best for their children, and if you are considering adding a furry friend to your own family, you probably want to know how it could impact your child. It turns out that dog ownership can have several benefits for children, ranging from improved respiratory health to better social development. Here, learn what the research says about the positive effects that dogs can have on children.
Bringing a dog into the home might help your child to develop his or her social skills. In 1999, researchers for the journal
Anthrozoos found that children who owned dogs were more empathetic and displayed more pro-social behaviors than non-dog owners. This effect was greater among those who were more attached to their dogs, suggesting that developing a bond with a family pet can contribute to a child's social development.
The positive impact of dog ownership could persist into adulthood. In 2001, researchers for the same journal found that young adults who owned pets as children were more empathetic and more likely to have jobs in the helping profession.
Having a dog in the family could encourage your child to be more physically active. In a 2010 study in the
American Journal of Public Health, researchers analyzed physical activity levels in over 2,000 children and found that those who owned dogs completed more physical activity and steps per day than those in families without dogs.
A 2013 study in Pediatric Obesity found similar results. Authors followed 1,218 children and found that those who owned dogs walked 29 minutes more and completed 142 additional minutes of exercise per week. Children in families with a dog were 49 percent more likely to complete the recommended amount of physical activity each week and more likely to have recently taken a walk in their neighborhoods. Of course, having an active dog who requires a daily walk would provide you and your child with ample opportunity to get some exercise.
Respiratory and Immune System Health
You might be worried that bringing a dog into the home could cause your child to suffer from allergies, but the research suggests otherwise. In a 2008 study in
Clinical & Experimental Allergy, researchers found that children who were exposed to dogs at birth were less likely to experience dermatitis and wheezing at age three. Similarly, a 2013 study in the same journal found that contact with dogs at birth was associated with a lower risk for asthma.
Researchers for a 2010 publication of Clinical & Experimental Allergy found a possible explanation for these effects. Their study results showed that dog ownership was linked to lower levels of a protein called tumor necrosis factor among one-year-olds. The researchers explained that this equates to a reduced immune response, which could prevent the immune system from overreacting to harmless irritants and provide benefits for the maturation of the immune system.
Benefits for Children with Special Needs
Having a four-legged friend in the family can be especially beneficial for a child with special needs. Researchers for a 2015 publication of the
Journal of Attention Disorders conducted a 12-week intervention with children with ADHD. One group of children received just a cognitive behavioral treatment, and the other underwent cognitive behavioral treatment with the assistance of a dog. Results showed that both interventions led to a decrease in ADHD symptoms, but this effect was greater among children in the dog group.
Similar benefits have been found for children with autism. In a 2015 study in the Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, scientists found that dog ownership was associated with improved social skills among children with autism. Study results also showed that the children were strongly bonded to their dogs.
Developing a bond with a dog can be beneficial for a child with autism, and it can also improve children's social skills in general, according to the research. With several additional benefits, including a reduction in asthma and an increase in physical activity being associated with dog ownership, bringing a dog into the family is sure to be a positive experience for your children. Teach them a lesson about the importance of helping those in need, and adopt a dog from a local shelter.
No matter your reasons, having a dog in your family can be a rewarding, healthy, and positive experience. Of course, the love you live is equal to the love you give, so don't be afraid to spoil that new puppy. Check out our selection of Love themed pet accessories here