The Benefits of Owning a Dog

Can Having A Dog Improve Your Child’s Health?

We all know that living with man’s best friend has numerous benefits, but can it actually improve our health, and that of our children? The simple answer is, yes. Most kids love to stroke and pet any passing pooch, but actually owning one means they learn from an early age to care for another being. From improving mental and physical health to learning about responsibility for feeding or walking them and even choosing them cute clothes, the benefits of dog ownership are far-reaching.

Feel-good factors

We love to cuddle our pets as it makes us feel good. The reason for this is that stroking a dog releases the body’s ‘happy hormones’ like oxytocin, which has a calming and soothing effect on us. Touching and petting your pup also reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol that your body produces, which is why a bit of quality time on the sofa with Fido leaves us feeling so relaxed. Welcoming a dog into our home can have a profound effect on a family’s wellbeing and mental health. Therapy dogs are increasingly being championed in schools to help children overcome reading difficulties. The children who read to the dogs often become less stressed and less self-conscious, meaning their reading and speech improves, as can their social behavior and self-esteem.

Exercise

All dogs, even the tiniest of teacup breeds, need exercising every day, in all weather. The World Health Organization recommends that children do at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day and having a dog is a perfect way to achieve that goal. From kicking a ball around in the backyard with their pet after school to long weekend walks, a dog is a great reason to get active. Plus it increases our time outdoors in the fresh air and creates activities that the whole family can do together, strengthening family bonds.

Immunity and allergies

It is now commonly believed that having a pet in the house, such as a dog, can help kids stay healthier and go on to develop fewer allergies as adults. It is thought that early childhood exposure to the bacteria and dirt brought in by pets helps to train their immune systems to better resist illness and allergies when older. According to recent studies, children that regularly come into contact with a dog in their first year are less likely to develop asthma by the age of six. Another Finnish study showed that children in homes with dogs had fewer respiratory tract infections, were less likely to develop ear infections, and needed fewer treatments of antibiotics than those who lived without dogs.

Welcoming a dog into your home from an early age can not only benefit your family’s health but their social and emotional wellbeing as well. Of course, there are some exceptions and introducing dogs to newborn babies should be carefully planned and monitored. However, for most kids, having a dog in their lives from an early age can keep them healthier and happier long into adulthood.