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There comes an age when every child wants a pet - maybe due to certain television shows that they enjoy, their friend has one, or they’ve read about them at school. Although you may be apprehensive about adopting a furry friend for the first time, pets can actually have a multitude of benefits and be a real asset to the family. From emotional support, to life lessons and even some health benefits, a four-legged family member may not be such a bad idea. Pets can have a real influence over the development of your child, teaching them some important life skills early on, such as responsibility and boundaries.1
However, when considering getting a pet, it is important to factor in the various costs associated with pet ownership. Pets are not cheap, with vet bills, extra food cost and housing changes all necessary expenses that may rack up to a surprisingly high amount. Read on to discover how owning a pet can help your child so you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s a fit for your family.
- 1. Pets offer physical and emotional support
- 2. Pet ownership at an early age can reduce the risk of allergies and asthma
- 3. Pets can help social and mental development
- 4. Pets can improve physical health
- 5. Pets help instill responsibility
- 6. Pets teach empathy and compassion
- Final Notes
1. Pets offer physical and emotional support
Family pets are a great way to naturally help boost self-confidence and self esteem in your child.2 Pets are a form of stability that can help a child feel safe, with many kids often confiding in their pets as they would do a stuffed animal or toy.2 Therefore, pets can be a safe outlet for any private or vulnerable thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing and it can also help them to develop strong, trusting relationships.2 Additionally, pets can be a positive influence on the family overall and can be a conversation topic that all the family is invested in. Likewise, caring for the pet can often be a family bonding experience, whether it's going for walks, picking out new toys or cleaning up their sanctuary space.
Some research also indicates that animal interactions can decrease cortisol levels (a stress-related hormone), as well as lower blood pressure, therefore boosting the child’s mood.3 However, there is no one-size-fits-all situation with the impact of pets on children. Where some may benefit from having the large, physical sidekick of a pup, others may benefit from the calm peacefulness of watching fish swim. There are also implications that animals can be useful in high stress situations for this same reason, such as after a particularly upsetting diagnosis or event.3
2. Pet ownership at an early age can reduce the risk of allergies and asthma
Another one of the benefits of having a pet is that some research indicates early exposure to long-haired animals such as dogs or cats can reduce the risk of asthma in children.4 Similarly, some research shows that welcoming a pet to your family while your children are at a young age can also decrease the risk of developing allergies later on in life.5
3. Pets can help social and mental development
Pets can also prepare your child for crucial life lessons. This can include a lot of factors such as death, illnesses, birth and grief.2 On top of this, pets can reduce loneliness in children, providing them with a nonjudgmental companionship unlike any other. Reducing the feeling of isolation or loneliness in your children can have knock-on effects and encourages them to be more socially comfortable and confident as they develop.
There is also research suggesting that animals like dogs may be useful in schools and classrooms as a way to help children focus and engage, especially children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).3 The study showed children reading to the dog once a week for 30 minutes and these children showed improvements in their social skills by sharing, having enhanced cooperation, volunteering, as well as fewer behavioral problems.3 Therefore, a well-trained, stable companion like a dog may be beneficial to children who struggle with those skills. Of course, this is only impactful if the pet knows all the basic commands, otherwise they might have adverse, disruptive effects on learning.
4. Pets can improve physical health
Furthermore, another advantage of pets is they can provide a fun way for the whole family to get moving. Although not all pets will need exercising, pets like dogs can be a great way to get the whole family together for a nice dog walk and encourages physical activity as a necessary part of routine, due to the dogs' need for it.
While busier families may find this a hindrance, families with older children in their teenage years may find it a good way to encourage children to get out and about and achieve some physical exercise. Similar positive effects are also evident with pet playtime, in which giving your animals a run around using interactive toys can also encourage your child to get involved and get stuck in. Quite often you will naturally find that your pet encourages outdoor activity.
5. Pets help instill responsibility
You may find that by encouraging your child to care for their pets, they will naturally start to grow an understanding of responsibilities. Whether it’s feeding them, playing with them, cleaning up their spaces, or just generally caring for them, giving your child an allotted responsibility in pet ownership can not only solidify their connection with the animal, but also gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility. Of course, these pet-related activities should be age-appropriate and usually still done under the supervision of an adult with the overall responsibility still the job of the adults in the family.
6. Pets teach empathy and compassion
Animals can be a great way to introduce children to nature and facilitate an understanding, respect, and responsibility for other living things. Additionally, they can reinforce some of your parental teachings such as empathy, by reminding children to play carefully with pets and respect their space. These learnings can then translate into their everyday lives by naturally being predisposed to also treat other people with the same respect.
What are the limitations of having a pet?
This is dependent on the pet that you choose to adopt. While some are lower maintenance, such as fish or hamsters, others are higher maintenance, like dogs or cats. Dogs especially will require lots of walking, physical activity and attention, so it is important to think about all of your options before deciding concretely on which pet is best to get. There is also less flexibility with travel and holidays, although once you have found a reliable, trustworthy pet sitter or become more experienced traveling with pets, this becomes easier.
Your job as a parent is to ensure your child’s health and safety at all times. While pets can offer many benefits to you and your family, they can also pose safety risks to your child. Regardless of training and typical demeanor, any dog or cat can bite – and children are at a higher risk because they are often face-level with pets. When deciding on whether or not to add a pet to your family, consider the risks and evaluate whether you would be able to supervise children when they are with household pets. If the answer is no, you may want to consider postponing pet adoption until you’re able to ensure supervision of pets and children.
Other potential limitations include the associated costs and expenses with a pet such as vet visits, food and toys. Again, some pets may require more attention, time and money than others, but either way a pet is always going to be an extra expense to add to the end of your bill. Although they may be cute, it is important to consider whether or not adopting a pet is the right choice for your family at this given moment.
What pets are good for kids?
Different pets suit different lifestyles. For those with a busier schedule, pets that are less interactive like fish or caged animals may be best. For those who are looking to improve their physical activity and form a close bond, a dog can make for a great companion.
For those who want a bit of both, perhaps a cat is more up your street. There are many options to choose from. Within these categories there are also different breeds with varying needs and preferences, with some cats like the Ragdoll being more needy than others like the American Shorthair. It depends what type of animal you are looking for and luckily, our pet profiles on our Dutch blogs can provide you with all the information you need.
Should I get a pet for my child?
Ultimately, you are the one who will be able to most accurately answer this question. Getting a pet is not an immediate solution to any family issues and is not a decision that should be made casually or taken lightly. Discuss whether or not a pet might be beneficial amongst the whole family and take everyone’s point of view into consideration - although pets are cute, adorable and come with a lot of benefits, there is still a lot to think about.
Family and pets - two words that flow seamlessly next to each other and this is for a reason. Pets can have a tremendous impact on the overall dynamic of the family and we encourage giving your little ones pleads for a fluffy furball a second thought. Now that you know all the benefits, consider talking it over with the family and decide whether or not a new addition might be right for you. Here at Dutch, we have more advice on other family-pet related issues, such as introducing your dog to a baby or the best safety tips for the holiday season.
Discover the other advantages of having a pet, including health benefits, emotional support and more. As mentioned previously, the cost of adopting pets like dogs can be stressful for families, but Dutch is here to help.
Our telemedicine service lets you speak to a licensed veterinarian right from the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re an animal lover, a pet-parent to be, or already a seasoned pet owner, try Dutch today for an easy way to understand your furry friends.
Elphick, Denise. “10 Reasons Why Pets Are Good For Kids” PetsPyjamas https://www.petspyjamas.com/blog/10-reasons-why-pets-are-good-for-kids/
“Pets and Children” American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Jan. 2019 https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Pets-And-Children-075.aspx#:~:text=Developing%20positive%20feelings%20about%20pets,communication%2C%20compassion%2C%20and%20empathy
“The Power of Pets” NIH, Feb. 2018 https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/02/power-pets
Fall, Tove. Et al. “Early Exposure to Dogs and Farm Animals and the Risk of Childhood Asthma” JAMA Pediatrics, 2 Nov. 2015 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2467334
“Can Having a Pet Help Prevent Allergies?” Cleveland Clinic, 3 Feb. 2020 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-a-pet-help-prevent-allergies/#:~:text=Having%20a%20pet%20in%20the,life%20for%20children%20under%201