Are your kids asking for a dog (for the millionth time)? Are you weighing all the pros and cons, even in these crazy, pandemic times? Here’s another big point for the ‘pro’ side: researchers say that when young kids have dogs, they often have higher self esteem and fewer behavioral issues.

These findings, among many others related to dog ownership and kids, were published this summer in Nature.

I know what you’re thinking: but dogs are so much work. And they are. I jokingly refer to our bulldog as my third “child,” because while he’s significantly lazier than my two energetic kids, he creates just about as many messes as my two human children.

Even though he’s lazy, he needs exercise, including walks and playing soccer. Just like the kids, he also needs to eat (and I promise you, he makes a slobbering mess just about every time).

But that “work” when it comes to dogs? It’s one reason, of many, why dogs can be so good for kids. Dog ownership — particularly for kids age two to five, according to the study in Nature — can teach children a whole lot about responsibility and taking care of another living thing.

As the study also discusses, dog ownership also encourages more physical activity for kids too — and in this day and age, when so many kids are looking at screens, that extra physical activity can make a big difference. For one, as the study authors share: “in an Australian study, children who walked with the family dog accumulated on average 29 min more physical activity per week.” That definitely adds up over time.

As for the long term, dog ownership has a ton of benefits. According to the study authors:

We found that pre-school children with a family dog were less likely to have conduct problems, peer problems, and had a lower overall difficulties score than children from non-dog-owning families, after adjusting for socio-demographic factors and child screen and sleep time.

The socio-emotional development benefits of dog ownership are huge, and those benefits start when the kids are young. So if you’re thinking of owning a dog? Sure, dogs can be work — but they can also be one of your kid’s greatest companions too.


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