Many parents bring home a dog thinking it can be a great addition to the family or because their children are hankering after one. However, bringing a dog home is a decision that needs to be taken after careful consideration. For, as with everything else, there are several positives as well as certain drawbacks involved here. Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of raising your child with a dog around.
The advantages of bringing home a dog
- Improves immunity: We are continuously exposed to disease-causing germs. But, the good news is that our immune system protects us from the ill-effects of most pathogens. Children, however, are more prone to falling sick because they often play in groups, share food and, at times, forget to follow the rules of hygiene. Which is why they get stomach and respiratory tract infections. But, according to the paper, ‘Respiratory tract illnesses during the first year of life: effect of dog and cat contacts’ by Bergroth et al, published in Pediatrics (2011), if pets are around in the first year of a child's life, it helps the latter develop a higher level of resistance to respiratory tract illnesses.
- Provides companionship: Having a companion can be a great blessing. When it comes to young children, they often want their parents around, regardless of what they are doing. A pet dog can be great company for your child, especially on those occasions when you cannot be around. Also, children who don't have siblings to play with, will find a dog an ideal playmate — to energetically play catch and fetch-the-ball, roll about together in sandpits or, simply run around at home.
- Teaches responsibility: This is one of the most important lessons that all children need to learn. However, being responsible is not something that children can imbibe overnight. That being said, bringing home a dog and asking your child to take care of it, is possibly the most exciting and fun way to teach your child responsibility. Doing things like feeding and grooming the pet, taking it for walks and, ensuring it is well settled at home will help your child learn to understand and respond to someone else's needs. More important, this will also help him respond to others better and think about their welfare.
- Increases activity levels: Activity has always been linked to better physical and mental health. It is especially important for children to be physically active as it helps in strengthening bones and muscles, improving balance and fine motor skills. With a dog at home, your child is likely to improve her fitness levels, as she will end up walking and playing with it regularly!
- Improves emotional well-being: The ability to understand what others are feeling, connect with them, and extend support, is very important. It helps an individual feel happy and content. Hawkins et al published a study, ' Childhood Attachment to Pets: Associations between Pet Attachment, Attitudes to Animals, Compassion, and Humane Behaviour', in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2017). The researchers note: 'Encouraging children to participate in pet care behaviour may promote attachment between children and their pet, which in turn, may have a range of positive outcomes for both children (reduced aggression, better well-being, and quality of life) and pets (humane treatment)'.
While keeping a dog at home leads to so many positive outcomes, you should also remember that every coin has two sides.
The disadvantages of bringing home a dog
- Safety concerns: Remember that children are still developing their abilities, and learning about their surroundings and how to interact with those around them, including animals. As a result, your child may not be able to correctly read the cues given by the dog. He may not understand when to engage with it and when to leave it alone. Therefore, your child may end up irritating the dog, which may react instinctively and hurt your child. So, you should also think about how to keep your child safe by teaching him to deal with a dog.
- Allergies and infections: Although no adult member of your family may be allergic to anything, it may not be the case with your child. If your child is vulnerable to multiple allergens and often develops allergies, then reconsider bringing home a dog. Read well about this aspect before taking the decision.
- Increased chaos: While dogs can certainly make you and your family feel happy, they also have unique personalities and can change the environment at home. A dog will force you to make certain changes in your house and lifestyle. This can make you, your child or other family members feel uncomfortable at times.
At the end of the day, it must be said that bringing home a dog is a decision that should be taken after careful consideration. Why not discuss this as a family and then, come to a consensus. After all, having a dog is a big commitment — once you get one, you can't say that you don't want it the next day.
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