There are many benefits to having a pet as part of your family, and for children especially living with an animal can help them to learn some important lessons as well as providing a reliable best friend when growing up!
In addition to the well-known health benefits for adults that owning a pet brings; encouraging activity, improving mood and an increased sense of calm, research has suggested that children growing up with pets have a reduced risk of suffering from asthma and allergies.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson which parents recognise that a pet teaches their children is that of responsibility; helping to look after an animal demonstrates the tasks necessary to care for your pet and instils in them a sense of respect for other living creatures. A great way to ensure your child understands what is required in the caring routine is to make a rota for tasks such as feeding, cleaning and walking, and then assign them regular slots which they are in charge of. Through this children will learn to associate the task with a certain time and it will gradually become a habit; it also demonstrates the frequency of each task so they grasp the level of responsibility involved. If they are too young to carry out these then encourage them to watch you do them or participate where possible so they’re familiar with them until they reach a suitable age to undertake such activities with less and less supervision. Just as we reward our pets for training purposes, be sure to praise your child when they complete these tasks and they will too have a positive association with the new found responsibility.
Involving your child in dog training will help them to become comfortable with giving commands and discipline, and in turn ensure your pet views them as another figure of authority. Allowing them to give your pet treats for good behaviour can provide a sense of joy for both.
Having a pet is often a great way to increase your physical activity and most kids need no excuse to go outside and play, so why not combine dog walking with games which is fun for all involved. Running, playing fetch and Frisbee will benefit both your child and dog as a more intensive exercise than a pavement stroll. With more children nowadays preferring computer games and watching television to being outdoors, having a pet is a guarantee they will get some fresh air and exercise to help their wellbeing. Children who grow up with dogs gain numerous psychological benefits including improved temper control, social skills and self-esteem; sharing the care of a pet also improves relationships between siblings. If children are stressed or lonely, cuddling their dog can reduce anxiety and boys find it an acceptable way to play a caring role. Early readers are often more comfortable reading to their pets and many children confide their secrets to pets knowing that they will never be shared. The benefits of having a dog are endless, but the enjoyment and love they can bring to your child is perhaps the best reason of all!