The Benefits of Growing Up With a Dog
Without a doubt, bringing a child into your home when you’ve already got a dog poses some unique challenges. But these challenges, at least in my view, are more than offset by the laundry list of benefits derived from raising a child in the company of a dog.
Dogs Make for Healthy Kids
When I was writing the second edition of Good Dog, Happy Baby I spent a little time researching what the latest studies had to say about the health effects of dogs on young children.
Well, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics children who spend the first year of their lives with a dog in the house reap a significant host of health rewards.
For instance, kids with a dog in the house develop an appreciably enhanced immune system over those of kids without dogs around. In fact, according to this study kids raised with a family dog had 31 percent fewer respiratory infections and 44 percent fewer ear infections than their dogless counterparts.
Not only that. It also turns out that the risks for developing allergies and asthma later in life are reduced by as much as 50 percent!
And of course kids with dogs get out and exercise more contributing to their greater overall fitness and therefore taking fewer sick days from school. So a dog can help make for a smarter kid!
A Psycho-Emotional Cornucopia
Enhanced physical health, as it turns out, it just the beginning. Having a dog around can help your child cultivate an array of critical skills that will flower into important attributes of their adulthood.
For instance, studies have shown that children who grow up with dogs not only have higher self-esteem and improved social skills, they also tend to develop stronger empathy and better nurturing capacities, an enhanced ability to communicate and a deeper sense of responsibility than children without dogs.
Having gotten a jump-start on the development of such critical skills, kids who grow up with dogs tend to have an easier time cultivating relationships with other children than those who don’t.
And for shy kids dogs can also help build social bridges, as other children are more likely to approach them when they are just hanging out playing with Rover.
The World is a Safe Place
But the benefits don’t stop with physical health and psycho-social well-being. Dogs can also enhance a child’s sense of security and stability.
No offense to parents here but, like it or not, unlike adults dogs are never critical or commanding. They are simply there, uncritically radiating love and companionship. Because of that just having them around can make little ones feel more secure and loved than they might without a furry, tail-wagging friend.
If you don’t believe that then consider that nearly 70% of children report confiding in their pets and sharing secrets with them. They know that man’s best friend would never sell them out.
One is the Loneliest Number
Dogs also keep kids company, easing loneliness and separation anxiety in the absence of important family members.
All in All…
… the pervasive love and companionship of a family dog can help make your child feel more secure, providing a solid boost to the long-term development of confidence and a positive self-image.
Additional virtues such as learning respect for animals, creating a deep connection to the natural world, cultivating a sense of kindness and caring, discovering life processes like birth, reproduction, health, recovery and even death are added benefits that are simply built into the relationship by its very nature.
This long list of benefits alone more than justifies the effort involved in properly preparing your dog for the arrival of your baby. But, as we’ll see in the next post, if your child happens to suffer from learning disabilities and behavioral issues the list gets even longer.
>> Read Part 2: The Incredible Benefits of Growing Up With A Dog
Want to learn more about preparing your dog for the arrival of your baby? Check out my book: Good Dog, Happy Baby