Young children who grow up with dogs are better behaved
By Sandra E. García
Young children who come from dog-owning households and regularly go on family dog walks, or actively play with their dogs, are better behaved than their peers who grew up without a dog, a new study has found.
The study, from the University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute, notes that kids aged 2 through 5 who had dogs “had a reduced likelihood of conduct and peer problems, as well as increased pro-social behaviors such as sharing and cooperating.”
Further, the positive effects of growing up with a dog increased the more the children walked or played with their family dog.
“We’re increasingly learning that pet ownership within families can have fantastic benefits for children’s physical and social development,” one of the researchers, Hayley Christian, said in a Telethon Kids release. “Our previous research showed that pets can be particularly helpful for school-aged children, but this latest research shows the benefits begin even sooner – right from early childhood.”
“While we expected that dog ownership would provide some benefits for young children’s wellbeing, we were surprised that the mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviors and emotions,” she added.
According to the study, which surveyed 1,646 parents, children from dog-owning households were 30 to 40 percent less likely to have conduct or peer problems. They also had 23 percent fewer total difficulties and were 34 percent more likely to have prosocial behaviors than children without dogs.
Walking the dog as a family at least once per week and actively playing with the family dog three or more times per week increased the likelihood of preschoolers’ prosocial behavior by up to 74 percent, and reduced total difficulties by 36 percent.
“Given how important physical activity is to a child’s health and social and emotional development, we really need to make the most of any opportunity to get kids moving,” Christian said. “Our research suggests family down ownership could be a valuable strategy in achieving this.”