Parents are always racking their brains, trying to figure out ways to make their kids smarter, stronger, and more empathetic. But actually making that a reality can be difficult. Kids have minds of their own, and they are quickly conditioned by the culture around them.
Could dogs lend a helping hand? The answer from science seems to be a resounding “yes.” Dogs can help in multiple ways.
Here are some of the ways that dogs are good for kids. Check them out below:
It Makes Kids More Responsible
Kids don’t often take on responsibility. They leave that to adults. But as they get older, the need for them to begin taking more responsibility for their lives grows.
Not all children, though, learn what responsibility means. When parents do everything for them, they go through their formative years believing that all they need to do is sit around the house, looking cute.
Dogs, though, teach them differently. When they have to look after an animal, they get to encounter a level of responsibility that they wouldn’t usually have. They learn that how they treat their dog is extremely important and that they must look after it if they want it to grow up to be strong and healthy. If they don’t nurture it, problems can arise.
The responsibilities of looking after a puppy are even greater. Dogs can generally fend for themselves, but puppies need around-the-clock care and attention. Most require feeding every two hours or so.
It Makes Kids Healthier
As strange as it might sound, having dogs around the house can actually make kids healthier. Studies suggest that kids raised around dogs have a lower risk of developing allergies and other diseases.
Researchers aren’t quite sure why this is, but they think that it has something to do with the dog’s effect on gut flora. Dogs transfer beneficial bacteria around families, helping the gut to work better. Animals may also stimulate the immune system in ways that regular human contact cannot.
It Makes Kids Happier
Today’s kids experience more mental health problems than any other generation in history, thanks partly to their devices. However, dogs may be able to make children happier.
There are several reasons for this. The biggest is that dogs raise the level of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. When children play with pets, scientists detect measurable increases in the levels of these hormones. The mind feels calm and the mood improves.
You’ll notice that when kids are in the presence of dogs, they feel much better. Their mood is higher and they are happier being around other children or just playing quietly by themselves.
It Makes Kids Less Stressed
Because of school pressures, today’s kids experience similar levels of stress to adults, particularly around exam time. The hormone cortisol is the main driver of stress in the human body. When released by the brain, it increases blood pressure, pupil dilation, and other biological responses designed to prepare for fight or flight.
Of course, today’s kids don’t usually face real threats from their environment. Instead, the majority of suffering occurs because of the perceived threat from school work, relationships, and so on. Activation of their stress response system can sometimes become chronic, leading to longer-term health issues.
Fortunately, researchers have found that dogs are helpful in this regard. Dogs appear to lower children’s stress levels considerably, particularly when reading aloud to them. Simply touching dogs may also foster a reduction in stress levels. Petting can release oxytocin, the love chemical, in the brain.
It Helps To Develop Their Cognitive Skills
Most kids will spontaneously start talking to pets if you leave them with them for long enough. But it’s not just mindless babble. Research shows that it improves their cognitive functioning and can even help them in school.
Theories for why this is the case abound. However, it might have something to do with the fact that kids feel uninhibited around dogs. Dogs don’t respond or make any funny remarks. Therefore, kids feel free to play with language, without worrying about what they think.
What’s more, the relationship works both ways. Dogs can also benefit from kids’ attention.
It Helps Kids Feel Supported
Kids need to feel supported to feel happy and secure in their lives. Parents, teachers, friends, and guardians all have a role to play in this regard, but dogs may have a special place. That’s because kids don’t differentiate between animals and people to the same extent that adults do. If they have a relationship with a dog, it often takes on the same level of significance as a person.
What’s more, kids view dogs as highly capable and protective beings. They know instinctively that their animals have their backs, no matter what happens.
It Helps Them Be More Compassionate
Compassion is often something that is lacking on the playground, but kids who have it can make a profound difference in the lives of others. But how do you raise more compassionate kids?
Well, one way to do it is to give them responsibility for other living, breathing beings, such as dogs. When kids have to care for pets, they become more compassionate and interested in the feelings of others.
The cycle is sometimes self-reinforcing. The longer they spend with animals, the more caring they become, which encourages them to show more interest in their pets, and so on.
It Engenders Curiosity
For kids, dogs are strange beings. They are like humans in the sense that they eat, have various needs, and are self-animating. However, they are also different. You can’t communicate with them on the same level as you can, say, a parent. And the more you learn about their behaviors, the stranger they seem. Click here to learn about some of their worst habits.
All of this helps to fan the flames of curiosity in your children. Kids want to be able to understand dogs and find out as much as possible about them.
It Makes Kids Feel More Confident
Research shows that kids feel better about themselves when they do things for dogs. Helping is a natural instinct for many.
Depending on the age of your child, you could ask them to:
- Change the water in your dog’s bowl
- Vacuum the dog bed to remove any unwanted fur
- Get them a treat out of the cupboard and offer it to them
- Play ball in the garden for fifteen minutes to let the dog burn off some energy
- Take the dog for a walk in the local park
- Give the dog a wash in the bath
- Put the dog to bed in its crate and lock the door
- Give the dog a pat on the head for being a good boy or girl
It Helps Kids Be More Social
Dogs are naturally gregarious animals. If they see another dog in the park, they will naturally interact with them, sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not.
Therefore, dogs set a good example for children. They show them the socialization process and act as role models. Dogs are always willing to be around other dogs, so humans should be, too – or so the reasoning goes.
It Teaches Kids Fun
Lastly, dogs teach kids about the value of fun. In fact, in this regard, dogs and kids have a lot in common. Dogs want to play all the time, and so do children.
Dogs remind kids that there is more to life than grades, school obligations, and homework. They prove that there are always opportunities to make excitement, even in the most mundane situations.