By: Juliana Weiss-Roessler
A balanced pup can teach a child so much more than how to properly care for an animal.
In fact, studies have found that a pet encourages a child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Children who have pets are more likely to have higher self-esteem, develop better social skills, and even have more friends! Who doesn’t want that for their child?
Here are just a few of the lessons your dog can impart to your human little one.
Love and Loyalty
There are few (if any!) species on earth that boast the devotion that comes naturally to a dog. Coming home to that happy face and wagging tail every day without fail can help your child develop confidence.
Dogs provide a wealth of opportunities for your child to get active — joining for the walk, romping around the backyard, or playing a game of fetch. They also serve as an example of why exercise is so important. Dogs need regular physical activity to stay emotionally and mentally balanced — that’s true for humans, too.
The Importance of Family
Dogs are naturally pack animals, and research shows that they bring out that instinct in humans, too. Families spend more time interacting after getting a pet. Use your dog as an opportunity to connect. Get the whole pack out for walks, playtime, and even grooming.
Can’t help your child practice reading because you have to cook dinner? No problem! Your dog can take over for awhile. Research shows that he may actually do a better job than you anyway, particularly if your child is struggling. Why? Children are more relaxed, likely because a dog is a nonjudgmental audience.
Patience and Compassion
A dog isn’t capable of all the things that humans are, and as your dog ages, she will require special care and attention. Understanding those differences can help your child learn to be patient and compassionate with those who suffer from disabilities, the elderly, and younger children.
Reading your dog’s body language can help your child pick up on non-verbal communication between humans, too. You can encourage this by taking the time to teach your child about common cues. It’s beneficial for his safety around other dogs, too.
One study asked children what advice they had for kids who had trouble making friends. Their answer? Get a pet! Dogs encourage your child to put their communication skills to use. Since dogs serve as an easy icebreaker and a shared interest, it makes meeting new friends easier.
If your child has trouble opening up to you, he may still feel comfortable talking to his dog, providing a safe outlet for private thoughts and secrets. The trust he builds with his dog can help him eventually learn to open up to others, too.
The more your child is involved in the care of your animal, the more she’ll learn about responsibility. Let your child take the lead on providing for your dog’s basic needs (with your supervision, of course).
Sure, dogs help teach responsibility, but more importantly, they also serve as a reminder to let loose, have some fun, and live in the moment! There are few things more fun (and mood-boosting) than acting nutty with your pup.
Let’s be honest: most of these lessons are valuable for adults, too.
It’s all too easy in this busy day-and-age to lose sight of what’s really important. Take a moment to thank your pup for imparting these important life lessons to your pack — and for bringing you all back to the here and now.