440 Dog is a Child’s Best Friend

Research by Wenden, Elizabeth; Lester, Leanne; Zubrick, Stephen; Ng, Michelle; & Christian, Hayley (2020). The relationship between dog ownership, dog play, family dog walking, and pre-schooler social–emotional development: Findings from the PLAYCE observational study.Pediatric Research. doi:10.1038/s41390-020-1007-2

Written by Robin N. Fatovic M.S

Dogs are known to be “human’s best friend,” but recent research shows that they may also be “child’s teacher.”Australian researchers studied the effect of owning a pet dog on preschoolers’ social and emotional development. They surveyed 1,600 parents of 2 to 5 years old children.

Results? Preschoolers who did not own a family dog had more behavioral issues and social difficulties with other children. Preschoolers who walked with their dog at least one time per week had fewer social and behavioral difficulties compared to children who walked pets less or did not own a family dog. Finally, preschoolers who played with their dog at least three times per week were more likely to help others than those who did not own a dog.

These results indicate that even minimal exercise and bonding with a pet may have long-term benefits. During the COVID quarantine with minimal peer interaction, these findings may be even more important to consider. Spending time with pets may teach toddlers kind, caring interactions, and looking out for another’s needs.

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