Whether you call them Gen Z, millennials or post-millennials,
today’s children seem like they’re living in a world that’s completely
different from the one we grew up in. With social media and smartphones being a
major part of their lives, it feels like parenting needs all new approaches to
reach these kids.
There is one thing that hasn’t changed: having a dog can help children as they grow up. In many ways, a dog is like a little human with training wheels, giving children the chance to work on social skills, so they’ll be ready for the adult world. Here are five ways dog ownership makes growing up easier and helps prepare children for parenthood.
1. Boost Self Esteem and Confidence
Working with or talking to a dog is easier than it is with people because the dog doesn’t care if the child gets something wrong or looks silly. It doesn’t care what the child says to the dog or does in front of the dog, that dog will still love them. This gives the child an outlet to freely express their feelings or practice tasks that they’re nervous about.
This connection plays out in some unexpected ways. A UC Davis study showed that children improved their reading skills faster by reading aloud to a dog than they did reading to parents or peers. It’s particularly helpful for students for whom English is a second language and those that have a learning disability. The dog isn’t going to judge them, nor is it going to speak better than them, so the child doesn't feel like they’re behind. This has spurred the formation of dog-based reading programs in schools and libraries across the country.
2. Develop Social Skills
Working with and training a dog helps children develop empathy: to be effective, they have to understand how a dog thinks and act accordingly. It also forces the child to develop non-verbal communication skills as they try to understand their pet.
Dogs can also act as a bridge when initiating contact with other people. After all, it’s easier to approach someone when they have an animal to pet. Surveys in the U.S. and Australia have found that pet owners were 60% more likely than non–pet owners to get to know people in their neighborhoods.
3. Learn About Life
If you’re young, age seems to never shift for people older than you. The shorter lifespan of a dog lets your child see the animal go through its entire life cycle, letting them better understand what people around them are going through.
Having a dog also lets your child connect with nature and learn to respect living things. It sets up a controlled environment where they get to interact with an animal and learn how they behave. In turn, this helps them better understand animals out in the wild.
4. Learn Responsibility
By having your child take part in pet care, they can learn what it means to be responsible. Making sure their dog has food and water, taking it for walks and learning how to train their pet gives them a base to build on as they learn to take care of the people around them. Dogs aren’t thinking about the future or the past, just how they feel at the moment. This gives the child quick feedback on how they’re doing, which helps them learn so long as it’s paired with some parental guidance.
5. Be Healthier
If you read anything recent about pets, there will be some mention about how they reduce stress and make our bodies release cortisol and other feel-good hormones. This applies to children just as it does adults. Caring for and playing with a dog also adds an average of 11 minutes of extra exercise per day, helping kids grow up healthier.
Having a dog in the home early on can decrease respiratory tract and ear infections in infants, cutting incidences by 1/3 to 1/2 in children up to one year old. Preliminary studies at the University of Michigan using rats point to bacteria that grows on dog dander. When this bacterium is present in the guts of these rats, they’re less susceptible to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can cause inflammation.
Make Going to the Vet Fun for Your Smallest Clients
Visiting the vet when you’re worried about the health of an animal you grew up with can be scary. From stickers to cute reminder cards, Positive Impressions has the products you need to help young pet owners feel special. We have items ready to ship, or we can custom print designs to fit your practice. Not sure where to start? Take a look at the products we offer on our website to see our monthly specials.