The human/dog bond is an ancient relationship. In fact, the connection is at least 12,000 years old, as evidenced by the discovery of a man who was found buried with his arms around a young wolf. Recent scientific studies show that children raised with pets suffer from fewer allergies and are less likely to have medical conditions such as asthma and eczema than children who don’t have pets.
There’s more to the child/dog bond than better physical health, however. It turns out that having a dog makes children better people. Here’s how:
Dogs Teach Love
By necessity, babies and young children are narcissists. It has to be all about them in the beginning, of course. But as children get older, it’s important that they begin to think outside of themselves and consider the feelings of others.
Dogs are nonjudgmental. They love unconditionally. Children learn that a dog is always ready to lend a listening ear. Children who talk to their dogs learn to talk openly about their feelings and enhance their verbal skills. The simple touch of a dog reduces anxiety and helps children learn how to handle anger and fear. They learn to love and care for something other than themselves.
Just about everyone who has cuddled with a sleepy dog has experienced an immense feeling of bliss. That’s why pets have been called a 4-legged meditation.
Dogs Teach Responsibility
When parents place the responsibility of caring for a dog in the hands of their children, they give them an opportunity to build confidence and learn accountability. Of course, complete care cannot be given to children, but age-compatible caring duties can begin at an early age. A 3-year-old can be responsible for changing the dog’s drinking water everyday. As the child gets older, parents assign more difficult tasks. Children learn they can’t just walk away and forget about the dog’s needs.
Dogs Encourage Nurturing
Just like any other quality, nurturing is a skill that doesn’t just appear when you grow up. In today’s society, boys in particular, have more obstacles when it comes to learning how to nurture than girls.
It’s culturally acceptable for girls to play with dolls and care for younger siblings. But it’s not always as accepted when it comes to boys. Bring a dog in, however, and boys and girls are equal opportunity caregivers. Learning to nurture others is an essential parenting skill and is more easily cultivated when a dog is present in the home.
Dogs Strengthen Family Bonds
A dog unites the family. Taking the dog for walk, playing with the dog in the yard, giving the dog a bath and caring for the dog become family activities that strengthen family bonds. Plus who among your family members doesn’t smile when your furry friend bounds up, wagging his tail, so excited to see you?
Dogs Teach Life Lessons
Dogs have a shorter lifespan than humans. They age faster, they become ill. Sometimes they have to take medications. They slow down.
At some point, a child raised with a dog will also experience the heartbreak of losing their much-loved friend. Children with dogs learn about aging. They learn about illness. They learn about death. And, in time, they learn to remember the happy days. They learn to love again. Isn’t that what being human is all about?
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