The American Kennel Club (AKC) highlights the important ways that pets can benefit children.
Kids are notorious for repeatedly asking their parents for a pet, and after hearing the question a million times, you might consider adding a four-legged friend to your household. While getting a pet is a big undertaking, the valuable life lessons kids will learn-from responsibility to compassion-are priceless.
"Adding a pet to the home is a major decision," says Gina DiNardo, a spokesperson for the AKC's annual Meet the Breeds event in Manhattan. "While often a big responsibility, having a dog or cat really helps children grow into well-rounded adults by teaching them social skills and important life lessons."
Having a dog or cat at home helps children emotionally and physically. Not only does caring for a pet teach kids responsibility and respect for animals, it helps keep them more active in a world where childhood obesity runs rampant.
On average, children who have a dog at home spend about 15 more minutes a week being active than those who don't. Below are only a few of the many things that caring for a pet can teach your children.
How Pets Benefit Kids
Responsibility: Having a pet at home teaches kids to care for another living being. They learn to consider their pet's needs and develop compassion for others. Depending on your child's age, some responsibilities he or she can take on are feeding your dog or cat, refilling the water, brushing your dog, and giving him love and attention. Young children should always be supervised around pets.
Social Skills: Kids learn to be gentle and respectful to their pets-like not pulling on the dog's tail-which carries into other aspects of life, encouraging consideration of others. Pets also help kids build their confidence. Pets don't judge and they give kids unconditional love and acceptance, which helps develop self-esteem. Children also learn empathy from their pets. They become curious about their pet's emotions and want them to be happy and healthy.
Staying Healthy: Pets help keep kids healthy by adding exercise to their day. Taking the dog for a walk and teaching him how to fetch keeps children active and outdoors instead of in front of the television and computer. Kids can also help train their dog, which is a great way for them to bond and build a relationship.
Learning About Death: When the family pet dies, kids have the opportunity to learn about death and how to deal with sad and difficult situations with their families.
If you do choose to add a dog or cat to your family, make sure you do your research and pick the breed that will work best with your family's lifestyle.
Also, check out all your options for adopting a pet, whether it be a purebred, mixed breed, or rescue animal.
And for more information on finding and caring for a canine or feline pet, visit the American Kennel Club at akc.org.