Child Benefits From Having a Pet

Are Pets good for kids?

Pets are such an important (and adorable!) part of our lives. They come in many shapes and sizes—dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, or any other cute companion—but no matter the type of animal, they are living creatures capable of building bonds with humans. In fact, many people view their pets as a part of their family! It’s estimated that about 70% of households have at least one pet, and 90% of people view pets as a part of the family.

So the question asked is, Can Child Benefits From Having a Pet? The answer is: Yes they can! Studies show that pet ownership may benefit kids in a number of ways. Pets can help decrease stress and can even help children develop social and emotional skills.1 And although research on human-animal interaction is still relatively new, initial studies have shown that pets can reduce cortisol levels, decrease loneliness, boost mood, and increase feelings of social support.

Keep reading for more about the child benefits from having a pet, with advice from pediatricians, professors, and authors.

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How Your Child Benefits From Having a Pet

Let’s take a closer look on what are the child benefits from having a pet at home

Pets Help with Learning

Educators have long known that bringing therapy animals (mostly dogs) into schools helps developmentally-challenged kids learn. Now they’re finding that all children can benefit from the presence of a nonjudgmental pal with paws.

In one study, children were asked to read in front of a peer, an adult, and a dog. Researchers monitored their stress levels, and found that kids were most relaxed around the animal, not the humans. “If you’re struggling to read and someone says, ‘Time to pick up your book and work,’ that’s not a very attractive offer,” Dr. Jalongo says. “Curling up with a dog or cat, on the other hand, is a lot more appealing.”

Taking care of a pet Teaches responsibility
Kids who take care of dogs learn what it feels like to have a living creature rely on them, and that teaches responsibility in a way little else can. Caring for a dog creates a sense of empathy and a respect for life. It teaches commitment and consistency, and it builds self-confidence. Your encouragement, along with the tail-wagging gratitude of the dog, will create a lasting feeling of self-esteem that will follow the child through life.
Pets Alleviates Loneliness

Pets often serve as built-in friends—except these furry friends are the best kind. They never do anything that hurts your child’s feelings nor do they exclude them or ignore them. Consequently, having a pet also can alleviate loneliness, especially for kids who struggle to make friends or do not have many children in their neighborhood.

“During this time of increased social and physical isolation for many around the globe, having a pet can also reduce feelings of loneliness and stress through close contact,” says Ann-Louise Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP

Pets not only provide companionship and friendship, but they also can become confidantes for kids who feel like they have no one else to talk to. In fact, it is especially common for younger children to talk through things or share secrets with their pets. When they have a pet, they feel like they always have someone they can talk to.

Builds Empathy and Compassion

Showing kindness to people and kindness to animals is really not that different, when you think about it. The relationship between a child and a pet is a fantastic way to nurture a sense of compassion that can then be conveyed to the world.

Caring for a pet involves getting to know its feelings and how it communicates. All animals – be it dog, cat or bird – use varying movements and vocalizations to express their needs. As kids develop relationships with their pets, they learn to read these communications. Then, by charging them with taking care of the pet, a child can learn how to make it more comfortable.


Pets Build Family Bonds
One of the biggest child benefits from having a pet is often unexpected, even for parents who grew up around animals: They can help families grow stronger and closer.
Having a pet helps to build family bonds as animals are often the focus of family activities. From walking the dog together to grooming or feeding the pet, these simple but enjoyable tasks allow everyone to slow down, enjoy each other’s company and communicate with one another.

Pets and Allergies

lower your risk of allergies

The above benefits are not the only child benefits from having a pet. Pets really do seem to prevent allergies: the more cats or dogs you live with as an infant, the lower your chance of developing asthma, hay fever or eczema.

Some studies have found that having a pet early in life protects from allergies later in childhood. Bill Hesselmar at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues wondered if having more than one pet would increase the benefit.

They looked at data from two previous studies. The larger of the two included data from 1029 children aged seven to eight. The incidence of allergies was 49 percent in children who had spent their first 12 months of life in a home with no pets. This fell to 43 percent in children who as babies had lived with one pet, and 24 percent for children who had lived with three pets. Two of the children had lived with five pets – neither of them had allergies.

The second study tracked 249 children from birth. After eight or nine years, the rate of allergies was 48 per cent for children who had had no exposure to pets in their first year, 35 per cent for children with exposure to one pet and 21 per cent for children who had lived with two or more pets.

This shows that there is a dose-dependent relationship: more exposure to pets means more protection.

Before You Consider a New Pet… 

It is unwise to bring home a furry pet if you have a strong family history of allergies and, consequently, a high risk that infants and young children in your home could develop allergies. Better to wait a few years and, then, if there are no signs of trouble and your child’s allergy tests are clear, you may want to look into pet ownership. Try to expose your child to the pet a few times before bringing the pet home, just to see if there are any allergic symptoms that would indicate this is not the right move for your child


Is my baby development is on track? 

Unfortunately, babies don’t have instruction manuals, but you can monitor important developmental milestones to ensure your baby is on track.

Keep in mind: the expected ages for meeting developmental milestones are just guidelines. Every child is unique and develops at their own individual pace. Occasionally there will be moments in which your baby’s development seems to lag, usually followed by a spurt in progress. Don’t worry if your baby meets some milestones sooner or later than the guidelines suggest. However, let their milestone timeline serve as a guide for illuminating potential red flags

To view full list of developmental milestones sorted by ages from newborn to 2 years, click the button below

Developmental Milestones List

Should I let my dog lick the baby face?

Dogs may lick a baby’s face for a variety of reasons. It may be trying to play with the baby, or, it could be trying to assert its dominance over the child. Either way, this behavior should not be allowed for health and safety reasons.

A dog’s mouth carries a lot of germs, which can easily be passed to people. This is especially problematic for babies and immune suppressed adults. Both are at an increased risk of contracting infections and parasites from dogs. So, even though it may look cute, a dog licking a baby’s face should not be allowed. In fact, I don’t recommend it even for healthy adults. If your dog likes to give the adults in the family “kisses,” let them lick your hand and then immediately wash your hand thoroughly afterward.

If a dog is licking a baby’s face to assert its dominance, that can set-up a dangerous dynamic that can lead to the dog biting the baby. It’s best not to allow your dog to exhibit dominant behavior over your children. It’s also important to teach children, from the youngest age possible, how to interact with a dog – such as don’t pull its ears or tail, don’t sit or lay on the animal, etc. 

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