So you’re now an adult – officially anyway 😉 – and pondering the age-old question……..what to do first; get a dog or have a baby?
There are so many pro’s and con’s for doing both. And also a lot of pro’s and con’s for doing neither! Ever! Just joking.
Here at Simply Babies Online we’ve been discussing this alot lately as to the perfect age to introduce a dog to the family. Some of the team have had puppies and dogs before having children, whilst others are pet-free but with the children CONSTANTLY asking “pleeeease can we have a dog? Of course we’ll walk it when its cold, dark, and pouring with rain” – Yeah right!)
So we’ve took the following wisdom of Eric G, founder and author or Cynical Parent (a blog where he explores parenthood from a fresh perspective)
#1: Dogs can teach kids about responsibility.
There’s a lot parents can do to teach kids responsibility at a young age. It’s common to have children clean up their room, take out the trash, and do other chores around the house.
But what better way to teach a children responsibility than having to care for another living being?
It’s certainly more challenging.
#2: Dogs can help kids become more socialized.
Socializing your son and daughter doesn’t only involve interaction with other human beings. Dogs can play an important part too.
This link between dogs and the socialization of children is particularly clear with kids who have autism. Studies have shown that those kids with a house pet show greater social development than those who don’t.
It makes sense too – at an earlier age, when a child’s social skills are still developing, they are often a lot more sensitive. A dog is the perfect friendly companion that doesn’t judge, and only wants to be loved.
This type of relationship can help reinforce good social behavior and carry over into relationships with other children and adults.
#3: Dogs are great for encouraging exercise (which reduces health problems like heart disease).
For many years, childhood obesity (a contributing factor to heart disease) has been on the rise. The simplest resolution for this, of course, always comes down to a healthier diet and more exercise.
Children love to run and play with dogs, so naturally, dog ownership is an excellent way to encourage exercise.
#4: Dogs can help prevent depression.
Studies have shown that pets, and dogs in particular, can help people fight depression.
According to Ian Cook, MD (a psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA), “Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression.”
Although depression can be a very serious illness at any age, it can be particularly harmful and scarring with children who are still developing.
#5: Dogs are good listeners.
One of the reasons that dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend” is because of their unconditional love and support. Even when you feel like you have a problem that you can’t talk about to anyone else, dogs are always there to listen.
They don’t judge you. They don’t interrupt you. They listen.
#6: Kids who live with dogs don’t get sick as often.
The findings on kids who grow up with dogs and its effect on getting sick is actually pretty astounding:
One study finds that infants who lived in the same house with a dog during their first year of life were about one-third more likely to be healthy during that first year, compared to babies who didn’t have a pet in the home.
One-third? That’s significant.
Furthermore, infants and young children with dogs in the home were 44% less likely to develop an ear infection, and 29% less likely to need antibiotics compared to those who don’t have a dog.
#7: Kids with dogs are less prone to allergies.
If helping your kids get sick less often isn’t enough, here’s another helpful health-related benefit.
A study reported in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy finds that infants who grow up with dogs are less likely to be allergic to dogs later on in life (the same goes for cats, but we’re not focused on them right now).
One important distinction that the study points out is that the dog must be in the home when the child is still an infant – after the first year, there appears to be no correlation between having the dog and a reduction in allergies.
#8: Dogs can help reduce stress for kids, particularly those with autism
If you’ve ever owned a dog, as a kid or as an adult, you can understand the soothing feeling of petting a dog or watching it cuddle up in your lap. There’s something therapeutic about it, to a lot of people.
But is there any science to back it up?
One study does in fact find that dogs can help reduce stress, particularly with kids who have autism. According to Sonia Lupien, one of the study researchers and a professor at the University of Montréal, “Our findings showed that the dogs had a clear impact on the children’s stress hormone levels…I have not seen such a dramatic effect before.”
#9: Pairing dogs with kids gives you, as a parent, lots of cute photo opportunities.
Let’s be honest – as a parent, there are few things that bring you joy as much as getting a cute photo of your kid.
Experienced dog trainers and those who study and understand dog socialization will tell you, dogs instinctively understand the concept of “family” (or more appropriately, their “pack”). Dogs learn who their family is and won’t hesitate to protect them.
The level of protection by a dog will vary by breed and training, but at a minimum, dogs will typically bark to alert their owners of anything they perceive as dangerous or a potential threat.
Once your dog has learned to live around your child and recognizes that the child is part of the “pack,” the dog will strive to keep him or her safe.
#11: Kids who live with dogs have lower risk of respiratory problems.
This one is somewhat related to #6 above, but relates specifically to respiratory problems.
Research from the journal Pediatrics found that kids who had a dog during their first year of life had 31% fewer respiratory tract infections than kids who didn’t live with a dog.
#12: Dogs teach kids about empathy and compassion.
Part of growing up to be a friendly, well-respected adult involves learning how to feel empathy and express compassion.
There’s a lot a parent can do to teach empathy and compassion (and most of it involves simply leading by example), but kids can actually learn a lot from dogs too.
#13: Dogs are…lots of fun!
As a dog owner ever since I was a little kid, I can attest to the fact that growing up with a dog was definitely one of the happiest and most memorable parts of my childhood.
That’s an experience I wouldn’t want to keep from my child or any other child.
Dogs provide endless fun and entertainment, and as the above list shows, there are a lot of great benefits that come along with all the fun.
So what do you think? Here at Simply Babies Online I think we’re still divided in opinion but that may be more to do with the workload than any of these other factors!
Let us know what you did – we’d love to hear your experiences.
For more thoughts and articles by Eric G and Cynical Parent please visit him @ http://www.cynicalparent.com/