This edition of our blog is the first in a series of articles focused on the wonderful relationships children have with their pets, aptly written of course by our own office mascot and therapy puppy, Dr. O. And who better to weigh in on benefits of pets, than our favorite pet!
Ask Dr. O
Hello, Mainstreet friends and Dr. O fans! Every day I am inundated with mail from my fans seeking my sage advice. Here is a sample of the most thought-provoking questions!
Dear Dr. O,
Are there dogs on other planets or are we alone? I have been howling at the moon and stars for a long time, but all I ever hear back is the wiener-dog across the street. ~ Rex
Dear Rex, like my good friend and idol, Carl Sagan, once said, “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”
Dear Dr. O,
If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no human hears him, is he still a bad dog? ~ Fido
Dear Fido, barking dogs are never bad.
Dear Dr. O,
I am trying to convince my parents to get me a dog. Do you have any tips to help my case? ~ Julie
Dear Julie, a wise dog once said: “Every kid needs a dog and every dog needs a kid”… I couldn’t agree more! In my opinion, dogs are much more than loyal friends and awesome sleeping buddies. Not only are there physical and mental health benefits of pets to children, but we can also teach children of all ages some valuable lessons about life, love, and acceptance.
Physical Benefits of Pets
The physical benefits of animal companionship (of which dogs are the best, in my opinion!) are numerous! It has been well documented that the companionship of a dog can improve heart rate and blood pressure, improve motor skills, increase mobility and muscular strength, and even improves visual attention. Let’s face it; having a dog around is a great way to get your kids outside and moving! In fact, a 2010 study showed that kids in England who had a dog exercised (on average) 11 minutes more each day compared to kids without a dog. That’s pretty cool! I personally suggest a daily walk and at least 15 minutes of fetch!
Want to know another benefit? A recent study by some very smart humans found that having a dog may even help to prevent your baby from developing asthma. How you ask??? They found that pet dander from household dogs can actually work to strengthen a child’s immune system to protect infants from developing asthma later in life. That makes my tail wag! But these aren’t the only pawsome benefits of pet ownership. Pets are good for the soul!
Emotional Benefits of Pets
Feeling sad? Hug your dog! Stressed? Walk your dog! Anxious? Pet your dog! The research speaks for itself! Animal companionship has a calming effect on humans. Dogs and other pets have helped children deal with scary events, endure stressful situations, and face other hardships with proven reliability! Dogs may even help reduce stress in families with autistic children. Can having a dog actually make a child excel in school? I say: YES! Read on!
According to a 2011 study, second-grade students who read aloud to a dog actually made bigger strides in their reading ability than the kids who read out loud to an adult. The authors believe that may be due to the dog’s ability to help reduce a child’s stress and the fact that a dog provides nonjudgmental support. Duh! Who didn’t know that!!?!?! Plus, owning a pet encourages a child to learn more about animals in general and may encourage an appreciation for research and science. Win-win!!
Other Life Lessons
Owning a dog (or, *gulp* cat!) is the perfect way to teach children unconditional love, empathy, caring, honesty, and responsibility — some of the most important skills they can have as adults. The world would be a better place if all humans learned the true value of life – ALL LIFE. Learning to love a dog is a great start. Now that I’m all choked up, I’ll leave you with a happy thought:
The dog was created especially for children…
~ Henry Ward Beecher