Creative Child

5 Reasons You Should Raise Your Child With a Pet

by Brittany Ferrell


It just so happens that we brought home our daughter from the hospital, Gracie was barely more than a baby herself. She has always been incredibly sweet, but she sometimes she can be rather…zealous with her affection. Just as our human baby, Madeline, learned how to be gentle, so too did Gracie.

After conducting a thorough doggie investigation, which involved a great deal of sniffing, Gracie gathered that this tiny human requires a certain amount of delicacy that she normally does not possess. My husband and I had spent more than a year attempting to teach Gracie not to jump on unsuspecting strangers and try to lick their faces off. It took less than a week with Madeline and Gracie got it. Be gentle.

4. Pets teach your child how to share.

I am not entirely sure why I buy chew toys for my dog that end up in my child’s mouth and stuffed animals for my child that end up in shambles all over my living room floor, but I do. The back and forth of dog toys and baby toys have taught my daughter how to share, albeit in an unconventional way. I decided to reinforce the concept of sharing by using the one object my daughter and my dog love in equal measure, ice chips.

Ice chips are my dog’s favorite treat and my daughter’s favorite teething aid. I scooped the coveted ice chips into a snack cup and handed it to my daughter, instructing her to share with Gracie. Her first instinct was to shove all of the pieces into her mouth, as it is her preferred method of discovery. However, when she realized that when she bestowed an ice chip into Gracie’s eagerly waiting mouth, she was rewarded with both attention and affection.

This life skill has only been reinforced during play dates and story time at the library. When she graciously shares, it makes others happy. If your child and pet do not adore ice chips as mine do, you could apply the same concept with a ball. There might be some barking and crying at first, but before long both of your babies will realize the benefits of sharing. It’s a win-win.

5. Pets teach your child socialization skills!

My daughter is shy until you get to know her. I work from home, so she does not have the same access to the social interaction with her peers as a child who attends daycare might. She has been hesitant with using her oral vocabulary in front of anyone outside of my husband and I, but she feels so comfortable with Gracie that she is able to talk those long, floppy ears right off. Perhaps she recognizes that Gracie has to communicate using alternative methods, so she feels safe attempting new words and her confidence has grown exponentially.

I vaguely remember attending preschool, but I do recall that one of the first lessons we learned was how to play well with others. Pets accelerate this learning process by demonstrating how much fun it is to play with someone who knows how to play nicely. A pet rewards a child with both affection and continued play for following the rules of being gentle, sharing, and taking turns.

Most pets will eliminate any undesirable behaviors like being too rough or stealing the ball instead of throwing it for fetch by simply walking away or ignoring your child. These early interactions can have a lasting impact upon your child’s social development.

An article in Everyday Health Magazine entitled, “How Pets Teach Children Empathy and Compassion” by Silvia Foti summarizes the social impact pets have upon children with these incredible facts:

  • Researchers in Poland studied the impact of keeping dogs or cats at home on the social development of 530 children 4-8 years old. Those children with pets had higher scores in pro–social behavior and self-reliance than those without pets.
  • A study in Germany found that children 6-17 years old with diagnoses of anorexia, bulimia, anxiety disorder, and autism had improved behavior with a therapy dog than without one.

Let’s be honest, babies and puppies interacting with one another is nothing short of adorable. The cuteness factor aside, raising your child with a pet has numerous benefits that can affect your child’s physical, emotional, and social well being in a positive way. Welcoming a pet into your home is really just adding another member to your family…a family member who will provide you and your child with the unconditional love and friendship you never knew was missing from your life.


Related Article: Child and Dog Safety Tips

Brittany Ferrell has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Education. She has worked as an elementary school teacher for twelve years and was awarded "Teacher of the Year" 2011. In February 2014, Brittany and her wonderful husband, Jerome welcomed their miracle, Madeline Olivia to the world and she has chronicled her struggle to become a parent in her published memoir, "From Dream to Dream Come True: My Journey to Motherhood". Brittany writes about her fairy tale dream come true of motherhood on her blog, A Mama Tale.

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