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New study: dogs are good for young kids

A new study says dogs may contribute positively towards early childhood development

If we needed even more reasons to love our furry four-legged companions, here’s another. A new study by the Pediatric Research group explains how dogs are not just great excuses for daily exercise, but may also contribute positively towards early childhood development. (Warning – gratuitous videos of dogs). By Michael Delaney.

Man’s best friend

It’s no secret that I am a dog lover – so excuse the heavily biased perspective, but dogs are great.

Several studies have already shown the benefits of older children having the responsibility of a dog, learning how to take care of something and the regular physical activity that comes with it.

And those benefits extend way into adulthood and old age, with the companionship a dog can bring.

They also make pretty good babysitters as it goes…

Much study

We’ve all seen the adorable videos of puppies and babies building those inseparable, unspoken bonds. Well, here’s the science behind why those relationships can be so beneficial.

This latest study surveyed 1646 families with pre-school children who owned a dog, and compared their findings with the parent-report version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) that is used to measure a child’s development.

And the study found that children who regularly spent time around a dog were more advanced with their social and emotional development than their peers.

The benefits

In essence, children found it easier to understand and communicate their feelings, as well as socialise with other children.

Researchers also found evidence for the usual physical benefits of dog ownership, too, including making children more pro-social, as they were used to initiating and engaging in play with their best bud (some more videos up next!).

They believe the reason for these findings is that a dog provides an unbiased figure for emotional feedback in a child’s life. Dogs will react to what’s happening around them – happy, excited, tired, angry – and children get to learn the link between this cause and effect.

Not just for Christmas, or lockdown

Dog shelters and breeders across the country reported an explosion in enquiries during lockdown, as people found themselves with more time at home and looking for a reason to get out and about more regularly.

And while the benefits of having a dog are more than just opinion, it’s still important that you know what you’re getting yourself in for.

If you’re sold on the idea and maybe want to try fostering a dog to begin with, check out the RSPCA and Dog’s Trust websites.