There are so many benefits of raising kids with pets. According to The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “A child who learns to care for an animal, and treat it kindly and patiently, may get invaluable training in learning to treat people the same way”.
In addition, seventy percent of U.S. households, or about 90.5 million families, own a pet, according to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
As a rescue dog advocate and author of Harper and Her Dogs, I believe those numbers are reflective of the fact that pets come with some powerful health benefits. Studies have shown that caring for a dog, cat, or other animal can help relieve depression and anxiety, lower stress, and improve your overall health.
More specifically though, how are pets good for our kids? In addition to teaching them empathy, responsibility, and love, pets can make great friends and companions for children.
My childhood dogs are some of my fondest memories! It was important to me that my daughter was raised alongside the dogs that have been a part of my family for 8 years.
Here are some additional benefits or raising kids with pets:
Kids learn respect and empathy for others
Children learn gentleness and empathy at a young age. Every day we teach my one-year-old daughter to be “gentle” when interacting with our dogs. We’ve seen this translate to a friend’s pets and animals she’s met out at farms, etc. We are also teaching our dogs to better understand “gentle” when interacting with our daughter. Teaching kids to understand what others are feeling, connect with them, and extend support, is very important.
Children learn how to be responsible
Kids can become more confident by having the responsibility of taking care of their furry best friend. Learning to feed, walk, take out, and clean up after a pet are all great lessons in responsibility! If you feel that your child is not yet ready for the responsibility of a dog, start small with a fish or other low maintenance animal! Shelters have all kinds of pets available: fish, birds, rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, dogs, cats and even chinchillas! Petfinder.com is a great place to start your search!
Pets promote physical activity
Walking, playing, taking them to a dog park and all ways to increase and promote physical activities in kids. With today’s technology, kids are spending more time on screens than ever; pets that promote outdoor physical activities can help everyone! Owning a dog encourages us to walk daily, and to be more active. It’s no surprise that dog owners especially were found to be 54% more likely to get the recommended amount of physical exercise.
Pets teach children emotional responses to love, loyalty and even grief
Children need to learn how to deal with all of the curve balls life throws at them and a pet can be a great way to learn! I remember when my first dog died, I learned how to process grief. I discussed how I felt with my family and even at school. I was able to write an essay dedicated to my first dog, which helped communicate my feelings.
Having a dog or cat early in life can positively affect a developing immune system, and may reduce the risk of certain allergies or asthma in at-risk children.
(Bonus!) According to Cleveland Clinic, having a pet at home can also help with allergies!
What’s more, pregnant people with dogs are 50% more likely to get the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise — thanks to Fido’s inexhaustible energy (and bladder).”
Combining pets and babies is never a decision to take lightly, just know that it can overwhelmingly be a positive experience. There are a ton of resources and research out there to support you on your journey.
About the Author:
Kara Venus lives in New England with her daughter, husband and two dogs. Her love for dogs and volunteering with local rescues inspired this story!
She works as a marketing professional by day and enjoys skiing, gardening, and traveling. She hopes this story encourages readers to feel confident about welcoming a new family member, two-legged or four-legged!