Dogs and Kids: 10 Lessons Pups Teach Us Growing Up
It's a special day when a child and their new fur friend meet. They may not know how to act around each other at first—and can even find themselves competing for attention. However, all of that starts to change as these young two- and four-legged family members get acquainted. Before you know it, they're rubbing noses on the grass and donning Santa outfits for the family holiday card. While dogs and kids create these heartwarming memories, there's a lot more happening behind the scenes.
The lessons children learn while growing up with a dog play a big role in kids' development, affecting everything from self-esteem to social skills. In fact, a study conducted by Kent State University shows that children who are close with their dog are more likely to build strong relationships with their parents and friends. Any child who has a fur sibling learns these important life lessons from a young age.
Lesson 1: Responsibility Never Takes a Vacation
Remember promising your parents you will always feed the dog, take them for walks, and clean up after them…only to realize these tasks were more than you bargained for? Many kids quickly discover just how much dogs rely on their human family members for food, grooming, exercise, and beyond.
Teaching children responsibility through dogs gives kids a head start on managing the day-to-day tasks they will face as they grow up. As children get older, their caretaking duties may evolve from filling the water bowl and letting the dog out for potty breaks to more advanced jobs such as weekly grooming and checking the dog's fur for fleas & ticks. When there's a family dog, many kids also pick up on ways to care for their own belongings, from not letting their laundry hang out on the floor to placing snacks in high places before they're eaten by a family member with a very keen sense of smell!
Lesson 2: All Dreams Are Paw-ssible
Speaking of accountability, taking on a caretaking role can benefit children's confidence. According to the American Kennel Club, kids who have pet-related tasks to complete show an improvement in self-esteem. This greater sense of self-worth leaves children better prepared to achieve their life goals.
Pups can also boost confidence just by being present in a child's life. As kind, judgement-free companions, dogs help children feel empowered when making important decisions. No matter what kids strive to accomplish, having a furry best friend by their side can motivate them to do their very best.
Lesson 3: Patience Really Is a Virtue
The proverb "all things come to those who wait" rings true for many kids welcoming home a pet. Dogs may feel afraid around new people and in an unfamiliar environment, and they often need time to get used to their forever home. As kids take their time building a foundation with their new fur friend, they become better prepared to live happily together.
Dog obedience training also teaches children a valuable lesson about patience. At first, a pup might seem more interested in a treat their human pal is holding than learning to roll over. After working diligently with their dog to master tricks, kids learn that patience can pay off in big ways.
Lesson 4: You Can't Put a Price on Friendship
When toddlers talk to their dog, they're not just doing something incredibly cute. According to a study conducted by multiple universities, children who form a strong attachment to their pet can have heightened cognitive language skills. Just think how much that can come in handy when a kid is looking for a spot at the lunch table on the first day of school!
Lesson 5: It's Never Too Rainy to Play
Even on the stormiest days, kids always have something to do when their dog is around. Playing an indoor game together or teaching a new dog trick are great ways to keep boredom at bay while staying mentally and physically active. Hide-and-seek and indoor fetch are excellent activities children can teach their dog—rain or shine!
Lesson 6: Dogs Are Better Than Security Blankets
One of the first things children learn about their four-legged friends is that they're guardians by nature. As pack animals, dogs have an instinct to protect the members of their group and therefore provide kids a powerful sense of security.
Whether children need someone to protect them from the monster under the bed or keep them company when home alone, dogs serve as brave safeguards. That feeling of trust can make a strong bond even stronger while helping kids face their fears.
Lesson 7: There's Always a Bright Side
How many times have you looked your dog in the eyes and seen pure joy? Much like our own young ones, dogs are filled with sprightly innocence and serve as a constant reminder to just kick back and be happy. Learning this as child can promote mental health and lead to a brighter outlook on life.
Lesson 8: Comfort Comes in Furry Packages
Pups can't talk, but they always listen. As any pet parent knows, dogs are highly perceptive to human emotion and provide comfort when we need them most. For kids, always having a furry friend to rely on provides a healthy coping mechanism as they learn about the world and face new challenges.
The ability to reduce stress is one of the most essential benefits of dogs for kids. According to scientist Meg Olmert, petting a dog lowers heart rate and releases oxytocin and serotonin—two hormones that help people feel positive emotions. After all, it's hard to feel stressed when looking into those adorable puppy eyes.
Lesson 9: There's Nothing Like a Breath of Fresh Air
Growing up with a dog encourages kids to be more active. Even taking their pup on a short walk each day provides children more opportunities to get valuable exercise and fresh air. When there are no human buddies around for a game of tag, there's a good chance the dog will be up for an adventure.
Just as importantly, those extra playtime hours teach kids to, well, be kids! From running through the sprinkler with their furry best friend to a throwing a dog play toy at the park, children can be themselves with a pooch by their side.
Lesson 10: Love is Unconditional
Perhaps the most important lesson dogs teach children is how to feel unconditional love. This powerful emotion only grows deeper as dogs and kids develop together and rely on each other for affection, attention, and friendship. Once children understand what it means to love someone no matter what, they take a huge next step forward as they become young adults.
Some of the best teachers have four legs. The lessons dogs teach kids help prepare them for a bright future, providing the emotional support they need to lead a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life!