Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog: The Unexpected Psychological Benefits of Owning a Family Dog

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Unexpected Psychological Benefits of Owning a Family Dog



The bond between humans and animals is a strong one. This is not surprising when you consider that people have been keeping pets for thousands of years. In what is now modern day Israel a human skeleton was found with the remains of a small dog in its arms. This discovery, and many others, provides strong evidence that people have been forming special bonds with animals for centuries. 

Why people started keeping pets is not 100% clear. Some people assume that this only happened when the animal could help them with practical tasks. This is an interesting theory, but it does not provide a complete explanation of why animals started to be kept as pets by humans 

It is early days when it comes to our understanding of the relationship between humans and animals. Not much research has gone into this area, but that is gradually changing, and the early findings are interesting. 

One thing that has become clear is that keeping pets, in particular dogs, provides owners with many psychological benefits. This is particularly the case for children. Study after study has shown that owning a dog benefits a child’s mental and emotional health. 

The benefits for preschool children 

A recent American study, carried out by Oregon State University, looked at the difference dog ownership made to pre-school children. The findings were interesting, to say the least. 

Children that had a close relationship with a pet were found to be more sharing and found it easier to co-operate with others. The fact that kids have to put their dog’s needs before theirs is thought to be behind this positive behaviour. They have to be aware of how their pet is feeling. For example, to be able to recognise when they are tired, and need a rest from playing. This means that they instinctively know that they need to do the same with people. 

Empathetic, considerate kids are usually popular. They get along well with others, and find themselves in fewer conflict situations with their peers, or adults. As a result, they spend more time in a good place mentally, which helps them to stay happy, and feel contented. 

Protection against loneliness 

Having a close relationship with a pet has also been shown to provide great protection from feelings of loneliness. Nobody’s life is perfect. At some stage, we all end up feeling that people do not understand us. In that situation, having a pet to sit with or talk to is a great help. Of course, a dog does not really understand what you are saying, but they do realise when someone is feeling down. Most respond by offering comfort, and trying to cheer you up. They are persistent too. Dogs will keep bugging until they break your mood and help you to feel less isolated, and change where you are mentally. 

This ability is one of the reasons doges are now being trained up as companions for children who suffer from conditions like ADHD, OCD and several other issues. You can read more about this, on this website. 

However, this does not mean that you should immediately pop into Douglas Hall Kennels in Glasgow, and buy a dog. Quite the opposite, because dogs are sensitive beings they have strong needs in the same way we do, which means you have to do your research and be sure that you are in a position to look after one. 


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