How Dogs Benefit Children

Copyright: 2005 Shannon Emmanuel

Thinking of getting a dog? You know your child wants a dog to play with but did you know that the love and companionship of a dog can have long lasting effects going far beyond their ability to entertain and amuse?

The current research into dog assisted therapy has turned the humble pet dog into an emotional, educational and physical resource. Everything from autism to reading ability has been tested with the use of therapy dogs. Excellent programs exist that have demonstrated a link between the interaction with dogs and improved social and reading skills.

It makes sense that even healthy children may experience benefits from owning a dog. What are some ways dogs affect children emotionally, socially and physically?

Can Your Dog Teach Your Child to Read?

A program was started that introduced the concept of children reading to dogs. The idea was that the child would be calmed by the presence of the dog as well as stimulated by the contact without the pressures of reading to a teacher or a peer.

The children loved the experience and the program creators noted that reading skills, including stuttering, improved. While not all reading problems can be corrected with a dog's company it is certainly a matter of interest to parents.

Owning a Dog Can REDUCE Allergies

Several pediatric experts have disowned the theory that early exposure to pets is a prime cause of allergies in children. In fact, the PAWSitive Interaction organization arranged a summit that included information suggesting exposure to pets by pregnant women and babies born into households with two or more pets actually had less allergies to the pets and other allergens than children not exposed.

Dogs Improve Social and Emotional Well-being

Anyone who has owned a dog can attest to the relaxing effects of owning a pet. Studies have shown that petting an animal can reduce anxiety and tension. The companionship of a dog can also help children build self-esteem and ease social interactions.

Dogs provide non-judgmental company and unwavering loyalty. To young children facing a world in which they are struggling to find their place a dog can help them develop a sense of themselves while also decreasing feelings of loneliness and encouraging empathy.

Physical Benefits for Children with Dogs

While physical therapies and assistance programs commonly incorporate dogs even healthy children can benefit physically from owning a dog.

Dogs demand a certain amount of physical play and care. Children may be more motivated to be physically active when they are with a dog than without.

While dogs cannot be the only answer to serious conditions, owning a dog can surely provide many benefits to your child when wisely selected and trained to compliment the family's lifestyle and the child's personality. Having a devoted dog in the home can contribute to a parent's efforts to raise their child into a caring and balanced adult.

Shannon Emmanuel is a freelance writer and researcher. Her recent book 'Choose the Best Dog for Your Child' is now available here Find out more before bringing a dog home to your children. Back to Training

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