The positive effects pets have on children

By Katie Boland / August 27, 2020
Pets

With international dog day on the 26th of August, we decided to take a look at the positive effects of having a dog and other types of pets have on children and adults alike. The first historical reference of having a pet was between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago and studies have shown that humans benefit from having these companions. Here are a few of the positive effects pets have on children and why it can be vital for them to have a pet.

Responsibility   

The main argument I hear over not having a pet is that their children are not responsible enough for one. Often this can be used as an excuse as to why they don’t want a pet. It’s a fair enough argument because any type of pet is a large commitment yet the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Having a pet teaches children responsibility. Putting a child in charge of taking care of a dog or cat gives them a sense of responsibility. Being responsible for cleaning up after them, feeding them, and bringing them for walks helps children understand the responsibility of taking care of another living being and will do nothing but help them in the future. Caring for a pet can help a child grow up more secure and active. 

Exercise

WHO has brought out a study to show that children are not getting enough exercise which will put their current and future health at risk. Children now like playing on their Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch instead of being out with friends. With the online gaming world being a huge place it is easier than ever for kids to play with one another without having to move from the television. Having a dog, in this case, is one way to get a child out from in front of the television. Having a medium to a large dog means that they have to go on a minimum of a half-hour walk daily. Younger children will have to be accompanied by their parents or an older sibling but it still gets them out. This also ties in with the responsibility the child will have to their pet. Being able to go out for a walk or run with your pet has shown to have benefits to your mental health as it is a perfect way to destress.

Mental Health

Mental health affects everyone, young and old. It is important for everyone that they take care of their mental health. Having a pet helps with the negative effects of mental health. The most important thing in your pets life is you. There is a reason dogs get so excited to see their owner and cat’s meet you at the door. A lot of peoples mental health can take downturns if they are feeling lonely, isolated, or anxious. With Covid-19 there has been a rise in people feeling this way and it is no coincidence that there has also been a rise in people fostering pets. It is important to note that while having a pet will help with these feelings long term; if you need help make sure to speak to someone about it.  

Companionship

Even the most introverted of us crave companionship. Having a pet is an instant companion for a child. There are thousands of videos out there of dogs and cats being protective of a baby or taking care of a child as they play. Dogs in particular love children as they can match their energy levels that adults just can’t do sometimes. Having a pet is wonderful for the times you just want to sit quietly and have someone around you. It could be the difference in making a child feel less alone if they are going through a tough time. Seeing how happy your pet is to see you automatically puts you in a better mood. Pets have evolved to the point they are attuned to our behaviours or emotions. Playing with your pet is known to raise your serotonin and dopamine levels which helps to calm and relax you. Children often have to deal with complex emotions that they might not understand just yet. Having a pet could help them work through what they are feeling and be a sounding board for them when they feel they cannot talk to anyone else.

Fostering

We’ve talked about the positive effects a pet has, now let’s talk about how to get yourself the perfect companion. Some might still be wary of getting a pet, which is understandable. Pets are a huge commitment and some just either don’t have the time or the budget to take care of an animal. For those that can but are still unsure, fostering is a great alternative. It is a great way to help animals that need it and it is not a long term commitment. The DSPCA has a fostering programme that matches you with the perfect animal and could give you a taste of what having a pet long term would look like. This is an opportunity for children as well as adults to see what type of care goes into having a pet and realising that they are not just a nice gift at Christmas but can be a long term commitment. Which leads me to my last point:

Adopt don’t shop

This is as important as all the other points so far. There are many animals in need of a home. The cost of an animal can deter some people, yet it doesn’t have to be expensive to get a pet. I got my dog 4 years ago for free off a friend who’s dog had puppies. There were some initial costs in that I had to get his vaccines and microchipping done. If you adopt a pet though, they will do that for you for a small fee. Dogs Trust, ISPCA, and DSPCA are just a few you can choose from. Another benefit of adopting an animal is going to the shelter. This teaches children about the amazing work all of the people there do to get every animal a home. If you still want to purchase a purebred though, make sure it is not on a puppy farm as they have a long history of being abusive. 

If you are unable to adopt or foster an animal but still want to help out you can donate to any of the animal shelters! 

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Katie Boland

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