There are plenty of people out there who believe that kids and dogs simply don’t mix. Dogs, they say, are dangerous around provocative children. While it’s certainly true that any child should be taught to treat dogs with respect and learn that they are not toys, the idea that children and dogs are bad for one another is ludicrous. If done properly, children can benefit enormously from the company of a dog. Here are just a few of the ways in which dogs are absolutely brilliant for kids.

Good For Mental Health

Kids these days are under an awful lot of pressure, and many are deeply stressed. Having a dog is a great way to soothe away this stress. Just stroking a dog lowers blood pressure and causes levels of the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol, to drop. It has been proven time and again that the non-judgemental, loving presence of a dog has an enormous number of mental health benefits.

Children who are being bullied can especially benefit from having a dog. As anyone who has been bullied, or who has cared for a bullied child knows, the effects of being bullied are long-lasting and can be crippling. A dog can mitigate this negativity. A child who feels socially isolated will always have a friend in a dog. The dog does not judge or mock them, the dog will always be there for them, and the dog thinks that they’re wonderful – no matter what the bullies tell them.

Having a Dog Can Transform Your Child's Life

Photo Courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones

Dogs and humans have co-evolved for a very long time, so our psyches are accustomed to getting the same kind of benefits from canine company that we get from human company. As pack animals, this kind of company is very important for the preservation of good mental health – but the complexities of human company, particularly when you’re in the fraught society of school, can be stressful for a child. A dog gives all the benefits of social interaction with few, if any of the drawbacks.

Good For Physical Health

The ways in which a dog can improve a child’s physical health are manifold, and there are really too many to go into in detail here. Naturally, dogs have the obvious benefit of getting kids outside, playing, walking, and generally getting plenty of healthy exercise and fresh air. But there are other, more subtle benefits as well. For example, studies have proven that having a dog around the house can significantly reduce young children’s chances of catching coughs, colds, and other common viruses. Why? Nobody is quite sure, but it’s thought that dogs may effectively ‘immunize’ young children against these viruses by bringing in minuscule amounts of microbial substances – not enough to cause illness, but enough to help the child’s immune system to learn about the world around it. This means that your child’s immune system is far more robust than it would be in a dog-free environment.

Dogs Can Be Good For A Child's Health

Photo Courtesy of Donnie Ray Jones

By a similar token, it is becoming increasingly clear that children who live with dogs when young tend to grow up relatively allergy-free, and have a reduced risk of being asthmatic. In a world in which more and more kids are succumbing to asthma and allergies, this is definitely a major advantage!

Good For General Development

Dogs are fantastic for helping children develop into kind, empathetic, and responsible adults who are more than prepared for the challenges life will throw at them. For a start, they teach responsibility. Dogs need caring for, and are reliant on their humans. Children thus learn that the dog must be fed, walked, and cleaned up after at certain times. The dog needs a routine, and will suffer if this routine is abandoned. The child’s love for the dog nine times out of ten ensures that they do their level best to make the dog happy, which in turn instills a certain sense of responsibility with them (of course, an adult should always be around to make sure that the dog is properly cared for on the occasions when the child becomes distracted – and to explain to them the consequences of neglect had said adult not been around!).

Dogs are also brilliant for social development. Dogs cannot speak English, so children can’t just shout things at them and expect them to understand. Instead, they must learn to work with the dog, and find new ways of expressing themselves in order to communicate with them – which involves an awful lot of observing and learning about how the dog themselves communicates. This kind of receptiveness to the ways of others and general willingness to expand one’s own communicative repertoire stands the child in good stead when it comes to making friends and developing human social skills.

Filed under: All About Dogs

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