Young children often seem to have a special bond with their pet dogs. This bond may also be of great benefit to their overall development. A new Australian study, published in Pediatric Research found that children benefited through physical activity and the social-emotional bonds formed with their pet dog. Such children displayed more positive prosocial behavior. The study establishes that the benefits of owning a dog begin early in childhood.
To understand the interaction between pet dogs and children, the researchers surveyed 1646 parents. They focused on families with preschoolers that owned a dog. The parents were questioned on their child’s interaction with their dog, specifically, how often the child actively played with the dog or went on dog walks. To gauge the child’s social-emotional development, the parents were asked to fill a questionnaire.
The team found that children who come from dog-owning families showed significantly better social-emotional development than children who came from families without any dogs. They were less likely to have trouble with their peers or show conduct problems. Interactions like playtime or walks with the dog can be important mechanisms in the child’s social-emotional development.