In Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, schoolboy Ronnie tells the story of his grandfather’s dog and the huge impact Hachi had on everyone’s lives. He describes Hachi as his hero and wins over his class with the tale of Hachi’s extraordinary loyalty and dedication.
Kids and dogs are a great match. They are innocent, open and wholehearted in their love and verve for life. They know a kindred spirit when they see one!
My own childhood dog was named Hush Puppy. He was a precocious little escape artist of unknown breed but looked like a black and white, long-haired dachshund terrier. He was a lot of fun and quickly became my best friend. I was a shy child, so he helped to bring me out of my shell. Sadly, one day he escaped our yard… never to return.
I still think of Hush Puppy all these years later.The bond we form with our dogs is precious and our childhood pets fill us with great emotion. Click To Tweet
Dogs act as a child’s friend, protector, confidante and fellow mischief-maker. It’s a beautiful bond. Let’s take a look at 9 wonderful ways having a dog is great for children…
1. Friendship and support
Kids can really thrive with canine companionship. A dog and child can become best friends and dogs exhibit such amazing values… love, loyalty, joy and pure emotion.
Dogs can play a beautiful role as a support animal or therapy for children with illnesses, disabilities, or who have gone through trauma.
Autistic children, and later adults, benefit from a gentle, patient dog as a pet. Dogs can help them get used to sensory inputs but also keep them calm and grounded so they don’t get overwhelmed. It’s a great way for autistic kids to learn to relate to another being and personality, building a bond that can improve other areas of their life too.
2. Preventing illness and allergies
One theory about why allergies are getting more common in kids is that our homes are actually too clean! Exposure to dirt and dust can build up the immune system and make it stronger.
The health benefits and preventative effects of having a dog are huge. Babies with dogs get fewer colds, suffer from less respiratory tract infections, have fewer allergies, fewer ear infections and need fewer antibiotics prescribed.
3. The importance of responsibility
A big reason you might not be keen on getting a dog for your kids is that you can imagine who will be taking on the cleaning, feeding, walking and other chores… you! But caring for dogs is a really great introduction to responsibility for your kids. They love their pup and will want to help take care of it.
Delegating responsibility is an easy chore that children can see the direct result of. Unlike cleaning their room, they are more interested in making sure their friend always has fresh water. They will learn that – come rain or shine – they have to take their dog out for a walk or to the park.
These are valuable lessons in responsibility, grit, patience, and perseverance that will benefit them throughout their lives. Their motivation will be their love for their furry friend, who will repay them in spades.
4. Enjoying exercise
Our society’s sedentary lifestyle is taking its toll on our kids. And one way to make sure children get more exercise is with a dog. Walking a dog, playing with it at home, in the yard or park, going on adventures together… it gets kids moving in a fun way. They won’t see it as “exercise” either.
You could make it more of a challenge and sign your child and dog up to agility classes, flyball, frisbee or other more energetic fun for all.
5. Keeping kids safe
As we can see from the tale of Hachiko, there is no end to a dog’s love and loyalty. There are lots of tales of dogs performing great feats out of love for their humans. Recently in Australia, a seventeen-year-old partially deaf and blind dog called Max stayed by the side of his 3-year-old family member when she wandered off and got lost on her family property. He even stayed with her all night in the rain and the falling temperatures.
When searchers got close the next morning… Max came and led them to the toddler. For being such a good boy, Max was made an honorary member of the local police department.
Dogs quickly come to recognize their new family unit, or pack. They can protect children from threats or summon help – it’s not just something that happens in the movies!
6. Playful fun for all
Kids love a bit of rough and tumble – and so do dogs! We live in an age where children spend many hours glued to their screens. So it’s especially important for them to take a break and dogs encourage that.
Even better than a video game, unstructured free play gets children’s imaginations working in different ways and allows their creativity to come out. The family dog can be a great participant in these games, especially if they are willing to wear a crown and be invited to a tea party, or don a cape to explore the backyard.
7. A caring and compassionate example
Through interacting with a dog even very small children can learn care and compassion. They have to learn to be respectful of what might upset a dog – like not pulling its tail. This helps them better understand other people’s boundaries too and they grow up to be gentle and considerate.
Having a beloved pet also gives children an insight into the life of other animals and can begin a lifelong affinity. They learn to be more respectful of the natural world and care about the plight of other animals.
8. Boosting social development
This year’s winner of Scruffts – the crossbreed version of the famous Crufts competition – was Jack, a Shih Tzu/Maltese cross whose sixteen-year-old owner and handler, Josie, credited him with helping her overcome her shyness. By taking him to obedience classes and dog shows she gained the confidence to talk to other people.
Being a teenager isn’t easy but a loyal dog is a friend for life and can help young people develop confidence and the social skills they need. They might meet people from different walks of life or discover a new passion that can become a career.
I remember how Hush Puppy helped me overcome my childhood shyness and was such a comfort to me – it warms my heart to think of all the kids having that sort of beautiful relationship with their dogs!
The Kennel Club has a Bark and Read Foundation, which takes dogs into schools so children can read to them. Why? The specially trained dogs are a calming, comforting presence, even for children they have only just met. Kids who struggle with their reading gain valuable practice while not feeling embarrassed or ashamed of making mistakes.
Teaching a dog new tricks helps kids learn about learning – a valuable but often overlooked skill. Figuring out motivation, rewards, practice, and patience when training a dog helps children understand those things about themselves too.
The list of all the wonderful ways having a dog is great for children could just go on and on!
Did you have a dog when you were a child? Share your special memories in the comments below. What other ways do you think having a dog is great for children?