Dogs and their bonding with kids
Dogs have become an important part of our lives and our families. As such, they play a significant role in our family unit, and especially in the lives of children. The bond between a child and their dog is an extraordinary thing. They play together, learn together, and grow up together, making their relationships stronger and stronger every day. In fact, children often consider their dogs as siblings, often much more patient and fun siblings. But other than just fun and cute pics, there are many benefits a pet dog can bring to your family life.
Benefits for children growing up with dogs
Kids often view their pet dogs as support systems, and will confide in them. Having a dog also teaches children empathy, compassion, and responsibility. Compared to their peers, children who have strong bonds with their pets are also more prone to helping others and sharing. Since these are their formative years, the experiences they have growing up will also shape a young person’s personality traits, and help develop their social skills.
There are also health benefits: toddlers who grow up with dogs have improved physical and mental well-being, and fewer allergies later in life
Having an animal in the household also brings your children closer to nature, helps them learn about the environment and pet behavior, as well as the roles animals have in our society.
Your pet will benefit from the relationship, too, as they will get an endless source of love, fun, and cuddles. This will also improve their socialization and interactions with other people and children.
It is a two-way street, where positive interactions between children and dogs lead to more happy, complete, and loving families. It’s also necessary to allow your child to assume part of the responsibility for feeding the dog, bathing them, caring for them when they’re ill or injured, or even scooping their poop.
Here’s a quick overview of the benefits gained from owning and caring for a pet
- Increased happiness and satisfaction
- Sense of pride and responsibility
- Autonomy and increased self-esteem
- Educational and social development
- Generosity and altruism
- Confidence and sense of belonging
- Respect for people, animals, and the environment
- Emotional balance
- Improved physical health
During times of adversity, petting a dog or cuddling up next to them can provide children a sense of comfort and relief by making them feel loved and understood. This alleviates the feelings of sadness and fear. In today’s digital world, dogs are not only companions but also support systems to help battle depression and anxiety. Petting a dog releases endorphins that produce positive feelings, while going outside or playing will improve a child’s mood and help them focus on the beauty of life off-screen.
Teaching a pet some household rules or new tricks will also help build up the child’s patience.
Furthermore, a dog’s loyalty to their little masters is often unprecedented, so they would even be willing to sacrifice their lives to protect the youngsters. Whether it’s another dog, a snake, an earthquake, or a fire, your dog will lay his life on the line to protect your family.
Finally, while losing a pet is very painful, it can be a valuable life lesson, teaching children to deal with loss and grief.
Science confirms unique bonds between children and canines
While it feels very intuitive, bonding between children and dogs has a basis in science. Kids have a natural ability to understand a dog’s behaviors and barks. Both can read gestures, body language, facial expressions, and intention. Also, both children and dogs are very instinctual and direct in communication, allowing for a special bond to form between them.
What’s fascinating is that research suggests that kids often form stronger bonds with their dogs than with their siblings and the rest of the family. Compared to other family members, dogs will not talk back or judge but will listen carefully, make direct eye contact, and show empathy.
What’s best of all, neither kids nor dogs need special training to form these bonds – they’re innate. Dogs have evolved from wolves to working animals to companions, all while learning to interact with people. So, when they come into a family, they already know their role in the household. They will listen, fetch, and perform tricks to please their owners and delight the children.
Activities to promote child-dog bonding
Children and dogs often have similar energy levels and need physical activity and mental stimulation to stay happy and well-behaved. With that in mind, there are many activities you can introduce to help build up and strengthen the bond between the family dog and your child:
Walking – taking a walk or a hike with your dog is essential. Not only for keeping your house clean, but also for keeping your dog happy and allowing them to explore the great outdoors. That said, your children should join you on your walks to gather valuable experiences, understand dog behavior, learn the importance of daily
walks, and learn how to react in different situations. These walks will also strengthen the bond between a child and a family pet.
Playing fetch – remember what we said about energy levels? It’s important to allow your kids to play with your dog, bringing a fun activity into their lives. Always supervise these interactions to ensure everyone’s safety.
Hide and seek – great game to play indoors on a rainy day. You can alternate who gets to hide and seek, or even hide some doggy treats and have your dog try to find them.
Training and tricks – teaching a dog some basic commands is a great way to strengthen the bond between pets and their kiddie owners. Also, it will be incredibly amusing for your children to teach the dog to lie down or play dead when they “shoot” them with an imaginary gun.
Family road trip – if you have the chance, take your pet on your family road trips so your whole family can enjoy new experiences with less stress due to separation. This is also a great way to build lasting memories.
Swimming and playing in the garden – if your dog likes water, a kiddie pool can be an endless source of fun for both children and pets. Of course, you will need to monitor the play carefully, as always.
Blowing bubbles – kids love to blow bubbles, and dogs love to chase and pop them, providing even more giggles from your toddler. It’s free, clean fun, and great for creating beautiful memories and positive associations.
We recommend using as many different activities as you can to keep things interesting. After the playtime is done, both children and dogs will be exhausted and happy, providing an opportunity for a cuddly nap.
Ensure a positive bond between your children and their furry friends
There are some important things to keep in mind to ensure safe bonding between your dog and children.
Most importantly, never leave small children alone with dogs.
It’s important to supervise all interactions. Some dogs will get startled if they’re awakened suddenly, pulled by the tail, or handled roughly. Things can turn ugly very quickly. Always be on your toes when there’s food around.
Teach your pet some basic commands (sit, stay, leave it / drop it, come) so you can quickly regain control in any situation.
Teach your child how to interact with the dog safely – this includes approaching the dog with no sudden movements, talking in a quiet and calm manner, and gently petting them without pulling or scratching.
When your dog is up to no good, don’t let your child discipline them. Instead, have them come to you so you can take action. Avoid physical punishment.
Don’t force either of them to play or interact if they don’t feel like it.
Ensure there’s a safe, quiet place for your dog to retreat when they just want some rest and alone time. Teach your children not to follow or approach your dog when they’ve gone to their spot.
If you’re just thinking of getting a dog, it’s good to include your child as much as possible. Come up with a name together, establish house rules, and assign responsibilities as appropriate. You can also shop for doggie accessories together. Make sure the introduction is supervised and well-received.
When you’re consistent and you ensure positive interactions, you’re allowing for a natural and wonderful lifetime bond to form between your child and their furry friend.
A bond between a child and their pet dog is unbreakable, filled with love, empathy, and compassion. It brings many benefits to the entire family and helps the little human grow into a happy, healthy, caring individual.
While this bonding occurs naturally, you should set up the environment for success. Build positive experiences and associations, and always supervise interactions to prevent accidents and injuries.
Having a pet dog will forever change your family and your child’s future. Make sure to enjoy and capture the moments of endless fun, play, and snuggle!!