The relationship between children and their pets is special and comforting, and brings with it many benefits for the child's development. Studies have shown that children with pets have higher self-esteem, improved social skills, and are more popular with their peers. They learn nurturing skills, as well as show improved empathy and a more caring attitude. There is also evidence that pet ownership may help develop non-verbal communication.
Pets and family harmony
Pet ownership may have a beneficial effect on family harmony. Research shows that families spend a lot more time interacting after the acquisition of a pet. Pets provide a focus for fun activities and friendly conversation. The relaxation and relief from stress provided by animal companionship also yields measurable health benefits for parents. Pet owners have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, fewer minor illnesses and complaints, and visit the doctor less often than their "petless" counterparts.
Pets and family exercise
Even the couch potatoes among us know that we all should get a healthy dose of daily exercise. But knowing it and actually doing it are two different things. That’s where dogs can be beneficial. If you won’t get up off the couch to exercise yourself, there’s always the chance that you’ll be more motivated to go for a healthy stroll if you’re walking your pooch. It’s a win-win: Your dog gets his exercise and so do you.
There’s also research that indicates that, through brisk walking, pregnant women who owned dogs were approximately 50% more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of activity per day. The study assessed over 11,000 pregnant women in the UK, and is the first of its kind to look specifically at the effects of dog ownership on activity levels during pregnancy. By helping pregnant women stay active, dog walking could form part of an effective strategy for managing weight gain during pregnancy. “We are increasingly seeing that exercising with a dog can lead to improved motivation and effectiveness,” commented Dr. Sandra McCune, research program manager at WALTHAM®. “As a low-risk exercise, dog walking can help women, who may otherwise find it hard to meet their exercise targets, keep active and fit during pregnancy. Together with a balanced diet, it could therefore help towards ensuring a healthy pregnancy.”
Spread the word: Growing up with pets is a good thing
Just about any way you look at it, owning a dog can be a delightful family experience. Children learn to interact with and take responsibility for the health and well-being of the dog. However, while the ownership of a dog may have enormous benefits for the child, parents need to teach children how to behave around dogs so they can have a safe and enjoyable relationship.
*Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).