Pet Dogs Help Social-Emotional Development in Young Children

Young children in homes with dogs have better social and emotional well-being than those who do not live with a dog. A new research published in the journal Pediatric Research shows this.

A team of researchers from the University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute used questionnaire data from 1,646 households with children aged two to five years. The researchers found that, after taking into account the children’s age, biological sex, habits sleep, screen time, and parental education levels, children from households with a dog were 23% less likely to have general difficulties with their emotions and social interactions than children who owned a dog.

40% less likely to have trouble interacting with other children

In fact, children from dog-owning households were 30% less likely to engage in antisocial behaviors. Also, 40% less likely to have trouble interacting with other children. And 34% more likely to engage in considerate behaviors, such as sharing.
Associate Professor Hayley Christian, author of the study, acknowledges that while they hoped that dog ownership would provide some benefits for the well-being of young children, they were surprised that “the mere presence of a family dog ​​was associated with many behaviors and positive emotions.

36% less likely to have poor social and emotional development 

Even among children from dog-owning households, those who joined their family on dog walks at least once a week were 36% less likely to have poor social and emotional development than those who walked their family dog less than once a week.

Children who played with their dog three or more times a week were 74% more likely to regularly engage in considerate behaviors than those who played with their dog less than three times a week.

Associate Professor Hayley Christian notes: “Our findings indicate that dog ownership can benefit children’s development and well-being and we speculate that this could be attributed to the bond between children and their dogs.”

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“The stronger bonds between children and their pets can be reflected in the amount of time spent playing and walking together, and this can promote social and emotional development,” she adds.

The research data collected between 2015 and 2018

The authors analyzed data to examine children’s social and emotional development and its possible association with family dog ​​ownership. They collected the data between 2015 and 2018. This has been done as part of the Play Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity (PLAYCE) study.

The authors caution that, due to the observational nature of the study, they were unable to determine the exact mechanism by which dog ownership can benefit social and emotional development in young children, or to establish cause and effect.

Therefore, further research should evaluate the potential influence of owning different types of pets or the influence that children’s attachment to their pets may have on child development.

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