We’ve all seen the American movie family: mom, dad, sister, brother, and the pooch. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t always part of the family. If you are thinking about adding a pet to your home, consider the many benefits for children who live in households with pets. In the beginning, parents may see pet ownership as providing a playmate or companion for their children; however, the benefits extend far beyond play. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a child who owns a pet is the lesson of responsibility. If handled and taught correctly, the child can grow up with a sense of responsibility that would not be achieved in other areas of the home. Teaching a child proper pet care techniques can make a difference in the child’s life. For instance, measuring food into a bowl and doing so at certain times of the day can teach a child proper portion control and feeding habits. Keeping the water bowl full can encourage good hydration. A daily walk or jog can show the importance of regular exercise. Routine grooming can prove the importance of keeping up one’s appearance and health. Learning how to take care of someone else can help children learn how to take care of them.
Another benefit to owning a pet is better physical health. As mentioned before, regular exercise benefits the whole family. In addition to exercise, there are other health benefits. The rhythmic petting of an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure in people of all ages. After an exceptionally stressful day, a child can find comfort and lowered stress just from petting an animal. Children with animals in the household also exhibit stronger immune systems. Let’s face it; our dogs are not always the cleanest. A child has no qualms with petting or playing with a dirty dog, which can (luckily) strengthen the child’s sickness-fighting capability. Owning a dog also encourages more time spent outdoors and not in front of the television or computer.
Owning a pet even translates into real-world situations. Humans rely on body language to understand their pets. Children pick up on the importance of body language when they have pets in the home, since it is a form of communication. Therefore, children with pets have been shown to have a better understanding and practice of nonverbal communication. In addition to communication skills, children with pets in the home often show higher levels of kindness and empathy. It takes love to take care of a pet, and a child will show that love outside of the home. The confidence of dogs also rubs off on children. When pets are non-judgmental friends, a child may be more confident around others.
All in all, owning a pet can increase the quality of a child’s life. A pet is a friend: someone to play with after school and someone who is always there. A pet can make a child more socially competent, while teaching responsibility. Having a pet can also aid in good health and good habits, teaching proper feeding and the importance of exercise.