Bringing a dog into a family with small children around is not a decision to take lightly. Many parents are concerned over the health and safety of the kids with dogs around, and rightfully so. However, there are also a number benefits of kids growing up with pets – both cats and dogs – many of which have been scientifically proven or observed in statistics and surveys.
Back in November, Samantha had a child therapist Dr Jody A. Dean on her podcast to explain all the benefits kids will reap when growing up around dogs and cats. They covered many different topics, but some parents and pet owners may still be confused about the exact ways that animals can benefit young children.
The below infographic lists all the benefits of kids growing up with pets we are currently aware of that have been demonstrated in statistics and scientific research. As long as parents practice safety tips for raising kids and dogs together, this partnership can result in children growing up much healthier both mentally and physically among other benefits.
25 Benefits of Kids Growing Up with Pets
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1. Asthma and Allergies
Children who grow up with pets have a lower risk of developing common allergies and asthma, according to a 10-year long Swedish study that analyzed data on over 1 million children.
2. More Activity
Kids with pets go outside more often for daily walks, exercise and have more playtime with the dog or a cat. A 2010 study from the University of London showed how children in households with pets are far more likely to exercise more. Other studies found similar results with disabled children and how dogs can help these kids to deal with the condition.
3. Heart Health
Growing up with dogs reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improves blood circulation, according to more than one study and meta review from Harvard Health. It appears that kids who spend time with pets are less likely to have heart problems.
Turns out reduction in obesity doesn't only apply to adults and senior citizens, but also kids. In fact, even babies who are exposed to pets through their early years are much less likely to become obese, according to a few studies.
Experts explain in a Washington Post article how adopting a pet into a family with kids can teach young humans responsibility, among other related benefits. Feeding and caring for a pet encourages children the value of responsibility and empathy.
6. Medical Bills
Pet owners and their kids go to doctors less while maintaining better overall health, according to a NY Times article that looked at the data of doctor visits among pet owners and non-owners.
7. Strong Relationships
Families with pets are stronger, more united, have fewer divorces, better relations and an increased index of happiness, according to meta-review of data and scientific literature from National Center for Health Research.
8. Literacy Improvements
In a 2017 study, researchers found that literacy clearly improves in kids who get pets because they often read to their dogs and cats. The results also showed how children developed a more positive attitude toward academic learning.
9. Care and Empathy
Kids with pets around are more caring and empathetic people than those without pets, as demonstrated a several studies. They start developing strong feelings of empathy in early childhood and grow up to be more empathetic adults, too.
10. Source of Care
In exchange, pets are their own source of love, nurture and care for the kids. Studies have shown how kids experience these feelings just from having dogs and/or cats around, and these mental benefits are interrelated with the above and below mentioned points.
11. Better Parents
Children who grow up with pets are better parents and have kids of their own sooner, according to analysis of data in The Waltham Book of Human-Animal Interaction. This is mostly related to kids being more empathetic, sympathetic and caring as a result of pet ownership.
12. Impulsivity and ADHD
Pets make kids less impulsive and teach them to be more thoughtful, according to research. For this reason, pets – dogs and cats – can be of particularly great assistance to kids with ADHD.
13. Siblings Bond
Pets strengthen the bond between siblings by giving them something to care for together and teaching them important life lessons about working together, caring for their siblings the same way they do for their pets and more.
14. Less Stress
Several studies show that kids with pets are far less stressed and anxious. A 2016 study from Tufts University showed reduction of stress and anxiety in kids of military families. A follow-up 2017 study with a bigger sample size of kids in regular household confirmed the previous conclusion.
Having a pet teaches a child to be more respectful towards animals and people, and grow up to be a more respectful adult as a result, according to interviewed experts.
16. Emotional Well-being
Autistic and abused children have improved emotional health when pets are introduced. Behavioral scientists conducted studies and found how pets and therapy dogs in particular improve the health and happiness of autistic kids.
17. Less Aggression
Children with pets are less aggressive and less likely to become bullies, according to experts and statistics from schools.
People who’ve grown up with pets are statistically more tolerant and open-minded. In fact, studies found that cat owners in particular are more sensitive and open-minded than people without pets, and even than owners of dogs.
19. Better Communication
Having a pet improves the child’s overall communication skills. A few studies, albeit controversial, have demonstrated how kids who grow up with pets develop mental skills that benefit their approach to communicating with other kids and adults.
Pets offer a great deal of socialization to introverted children and prevent loneliness, as was found in a 2017 study. Researchers found that shy, quiet kids become less introverted with dogs around.
21. Improved Socialization
Having a pet around also helps children to better socialize with other kids of the same age. Several studies on the matter found that pets benefit autistic kids in particular as they improve their socialization and communication skills.
22. Better Self-esteem
Studies show that kids who grow up with pets have fewer self-esteem issues. In one of the studies, children's self-esteem scores improved substantially after just 9 months of having pets around.
Pets are a perfect distraction for very active, unsettled or even hyperactive kids. The same way dogs help children with impulsivity, there's a lot of research directly related the benefits of dogs and cats for kids with ADHD and using pets as distraction.
24. Improved Immune System
Research found that having a pet around positively alters the kid’s gut microbiota and improves the immune system. Based on a recent 2017 study, scientists found a clear correlation between young kids being around dogs and stronger immunity to various diseases.
25. Increased Happiness
Having a pet allows for great memories and as a combination of the above benefits, makes children happier overall. There are many reasons why dogs and cats are great for kids, but improved scores of happiness may be the most important one.