As soon as my daughter could utter understandable sentences, she began asking for a dog. For a few years, between the ages of 3 and 4 her imaginary pooch, Bubbles joined our family. Bubbles, with her imaginary food dish and leash, was the perfect pet. For countless nights I’d tuck Bubbles into bed and kiss her goodnight along with my daughter. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief, as we had seemingly dodged our daughter’s relentless pursuit of a dog.
Fast forward to a few years later, July 3rd, 2017, when a sweet mini- dachshund in need of a home, entered our family.We weren’t looking for a dog, and our daughter had long since stopped asking for one. But here he was, an adorably tiny, snuggly, little fur creature with big brown eyes. Since the day he found us, Oliver has brought so much joy into our lives. It’s hard to imagine our life before him.
Since Oliver joined us, we have discovered the many benefits of owning a pet, especially for children. When a pet comes into the family, children learn that animals are living creatures that require daily feeding, affection, exercise and grooming. Having children help care for their pet teaches them responsibility. Even very young children can help take care of an animal. A simple, consistent task, like refilling the water bowl can teach even small children how to be a responsible pet owner.
Owning a pet also teaches behavioral awareness. Children with a pet readily learn how their behavior affects their animal. For example, if a child is hyper around their pet, it is more likely that the animal will become riled up. Conversely, if a child is calm around their pet, their animal is likely to be calm as well.Owning an animal further teaches children that actions have consequences. A child who feeds their cat or dog nightly, is likely to get extra loves and cuddles. While a child that regularly pulls their animal’s tail will have an animal that runs and hides from them consistently.
Caring for a pet also helps children to be kind and understanding. Having a pet that depends on them for survival and wellbeing teaches children to not think only of themselves, but to consider and help fulfill the needs of their pet. Caring for a pet helps children develop compassion and empathy that will enrich both their animal and human relationships. Further, children who care for a pet learn to respect their pet’s boundaries. They learn to handle their pets gently and give them appropriate time and space when needed. Children who respect their animal are more likely to develop respect and healthy boundaries in all their relationships.
When training a pet, children learn to be in a position of authority. They learn to enforce rules and to reward good behavior. In short, they learn leadership skills that help to build confidence and self-esteem.
Not only do pets teach respect, compassion, behavioral awareness, leadership skills and responsibility, studies have also shown that having a pet reduces overall stress. So, whether you are in the market for a dog, cat, rabbit, bird or snake, consider the many benefits of pet ownership. While owning a pet is a commitment, my family will tell you that the positives of owning a pet far outweigh inconveniences. Oliver has given us unconditional love and so much joy. Our home would feel empty without him.