Did you know that I was terrified of dogs as a young child? I would scream, cry, and have a full-blown meltdown if I saw one. I’d make my mother cross the street if one was in our path. But, that all changed when I was around 6 years old after my dad brought home our first rescue dog. His name was Sarge and he slept at the foot of my bed every night until I went off to college! In fact, fast forward 30-some-odd years and now I have 3 dogs of my own. I am so grateful to have had pets growing up and want my child to experience that same profound connection. With that said, this post is all about the potential benefits of pets for kids. Stick around to learn more.
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First, Some Interesting Info!
Comparethemarket recently released a pet ownership guide that included some interesting statistics. They quoted a report by the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW report) that stated over 90% of pet owners in the UK said pet ownership makes them happy. Over 80% said it improves their mental health as well as makes them feel less lonely. And over 60% said that it improves their physical health.
The CDC agrees. They state, “there are many health benefits of owning a pet. They can increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.” Additionally, “pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship.”
These physical and mental health benefits may account for the popularity of pet ownership. In fact, more than half of American households have a pet. According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owner Survey, conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA,) “Seventy percent of U.S. households, or about 90.5 million families, own a pet.” And this figure has increased by 14% since 1988.
Several Benefits of Pets for Kids
So how do pets benefit kids exactly? Here are a few examples!
1. Pets provide companionship, unconditional love, and family bonding experiences
Your little one will never be lonely with a furry friend. They are great for cuddles and stress relief. Additionally, our pets aren’t judgmental. They show us love no matter our mood. A 2018 study found that dogs are able to recognize sadness in their owners and may even try to comfort them. Pets can also strengthen family bonds by providing lots of fun and playful moments that are shared by all.
2. They promote social-emotional learning
Pets help children to develop important social-emotional skills like empathy, compassion, and how to care for others. Children learn the true meaning of responsibility when it comes to caring for their pets–especially since they depend on their owners for food, water, shelter, and exercise. These daily routines–of providing pets with life’s basics– can teach children to develop an awareness of the needs of other living things. This awareness , in turn, can foster empathy and compassion.
3. Pets provide potential physical health benefits
Not only do pets promote physical activity and exercise, but they may even help with allergies. A growing body of research suggests that children exposed to pet dander early in life are less likely to develop allergies. There are also studies to suggest other immunity benefits like fewer colds and ear infections.
4. They teach important life lessons
Pets help children learn more about the life cycle of all living things, including how pets grow and develop, how they age, and even about death–which is a natural part of life. Although many of us don’t want to think about losing a pet, we do have to come to terms with that experience at some point or another. While somber, it’s a valuable teachable moment in which family members can bond in the grief process and can celebrate the pet’s life as well as find gratitude for their memories together.
5. Pets may even help with academic skills
While the research is still relatively new and ongoing, there have been some studies that suggest children who read to dogs have better reading and literacy skills. This may be attributed to the fact that children don’t experience the same fear of making mistakes while reading in front of dogs as they do humans.
Things to Consider Before Adopting a Pet
Having a family pet may provide many benefits, but there are several things to consider before taking the big leap. Here are a few things to ask yourself first:
Health and Lifestyle
- Do you have the time and energy to take on a long-term commitment?
- Do your work and school schedules give you ample time to be around your pet?
- Do you have help with pet sitting when you’ll be away from home for extended periods, etc.?
- Does anyone in your home have a health condition that could be negatively impacted by a pet?
- Do you have the extra funds to pay for food, supplies, and veterinary visits?
- Can you afford medications and/or emergency care, if necessary?
- Is this pet appropriate for someone who likes to go out and socialize?
- Is this pet good with children?
- Do they require extra care and attention?
Living Spaces and Environment
- Does your home provide enough space for the animal to sleep, eat, and exercise?
- Is this pet able to live in an apartment?
- Do they require a yard or park nearby?
What to Do if You Can’t Have Pets
Obviously not every family can have pets. Maybe you live in a place that has a no-pet policy, maybe you can’t afford one, or perhaps your current schedule isn’t compatible with pet ownership. Whatever the reason, don’t fret. Here’s a simple way to reap the benefits of having pets for kids, but with less of a commitment.
Many shelters allow families to volunteer together to help walk dogs, spend time with animals, and even read to them. Contact organizations in your neighborhood to see what opportunities they may have available near you. Petfinder.com has a great tool for searching your local area, click here to check it out.
More Ways to Enjoy Pets with Kids
There are several other ways to learn about pets and pet ownership, whether one lives in your house or not! Check out some pet-related songs, books, and toys that your preschooler will love!
Toys and Games
To Wrap it Up
There are many benefits of pets for kids. A furry friend can positively impact your child’s life in several ways, i.e. by bringing joy, love, happiness, and potential health perks.
Now talk to me! Do you have pets and kids at home? If so, share your favorite funny or heartwarming stories about your child and their pet in the comment section below.