Canine MD: Eight Ways a Dog Improves Your Child’s Well-Being

Some of our favorite childhood memories involve dogs. But did you know that warm feeling is based in good science? Here are eight ways a dog improves your child’s health and well-being.

Dogs enhance your child’s cognitive and social development. Family ownership of a dog or other pet increases your child’s ability to use his whole brain. Children with pets at home also score significantly higher on empathy and pro-social scales than children without pets.

Dogs boost your child’s self-esteem. A study of 394 university students revealed that those who had dogs or cats as childhood pets were more self-confident than those who had not.

Dogs reduce your child’s stress. One study concluded that children who had a dog present during their physical examinations had lower heart rates, reduced blood pressure and less behavioral distress than when the dog was not present.

Dogs develop your child’s non-verbal communication skills. Dogs are wonderful playmates and sympathetic listeners, but they also stimulate communication skills in children. A study of 455 school children between the ages of 11 and 16 revealed that children with pets had a better ability to understand non-verbal communications.

Dogs teach your child responsibility and discipline Pets require a great deal of attention, guidance and care. In return for feeding, grooming and exercising their pets, children obtain companionship and unconditional love.

Dogs help decrease your child’s allergies. The UK Pet Health Council reports that children brought up around dogs have a lower incidence of hay fever and asthma, as well as more stable immune systems. This is doubly good news, since researchers at the US National Institutes of Health report that people with allergic responses has doubled in the last thirty years.

Dogs help your child cope with life situations. Dogs can help ease the stress your child may feel with the arrival of a new sibling. Children are better able to share their parents’ attention, as well as understanding what is involved in caring for another. Children learn about medical issues and illness as they experience veterinary check-ups and treatments for their dogs. Dogs also help children better comprehend and cope with death.

Dogs alleviate loneliness in ‘tweens. A Canadian study of children between nine and thirteen showed that many turned to animals for companionship when they felt lonely. The children cited dogs and cats as offering emotional support-listening, protecting, reassuring and/or showing appreciation for the child’s presence. The study also found that girls turned to animals more than boys.

Does that mean you should run to your nearest shelter and pick out the cutest dog you find? Not necessarily. Some dogs are better with children than others, and dogs require a commitment of time, money, and responsibility from parents, too. But opening your heart and your home to Fido or Freckles may be just the thing to get everyone’s tail wagging just a little bit more.

How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers presents a non-dogmatic approach to meditation. To fetch a free chapter from the book and the introduction from the audiobook go to Dog Meditation.