I had a fur baby long before I was granted a human baby. I like to think my husband and I cut our parenting teeth by raising our dogs together. We had to make many important decisions regarding our fur babies. Like how to provide them with a nutritious diet, how to incorporate exercise and play into their daily routines, and of course, how to effectively discipline those naughty little beasts.
When we adopted our puppy, Gracie, we believed we would never be able to have children of our own. Lo and behold, Gracie soon became a “big sister” to a human baby. Raising the two girls together has been the gift that keeps on giving.
5 Reasons Why You Should Raise Your Prince or Princess with a Pet
Pets teach your child responsibility.
My daughter is a toddler and therefore is under the impression that the world revolves around her. She is only partially incorrect. Yes, of course, she is the center of my universe, but I want her to grow up to become a contributing member of society. This starts with developing a sense of responsibility.
We started with being responsible for picking up after ourselves. Even if we only turn around and create a giant mess five nanoseconds later. Another way to build responsibility is to ask your child to help with the feeding, bathing, walking, and picking up after the family pet.
These chores tend to be greatly appreciated by your pet and also teach your child the importance of everyone doing their part to keep the family unit running smoothly.
A pet keeps your child healthy!
You know the old adage about a dog’s mouth being cleaner than a human’s? Well, there might just be something to that! An article in the Huffington Post in 2012 (Pet Health Benefits: Study Shows Dogs And Cats May Make Kids Healthier by Amanda Chan) explains that having a pet actually helps keep your baby healthy, especially in the first year of life.
A study conducted in Finland found that children raised with a pet had less incidences of respiratory and ear infections. Children were also prescribed fewer antibiotics. Scientists believe that pets help your child’s immune system mature more rapidly. I say bring on those slobbery kisses if they help keep my daughter from spending one minute longer in the pediatrician’s office than she has to!
A Pet Helps Your Child Develop a Sense of Compassion.
My daughter has worshiped the ground Gracie’s paws prance upon since the very moment we came home from the hospital. My daughter was instantly intrigued by this hairy creature and with curiosity comes a desire to investigate. Therefore, it became imperative that my husband and I show my daughter how to give Gracie “nice pets”.
Yes, Gracie’s long, velvety ears do beg to be touched and Gracie happens to be extremely patient, but we want our child to grow up to be a compassionate and empathetic human being and that begins with her furry sibling.
It only took a few demonstrations of using soft, gentle strokes with our dog before our daughter realized that if she modeled this behavior, she would be rewarded with those wonderful slobbery kisses. If she was too rough, Gracie would get up and walk away. This was my daughter’s initiation to life’s golden rule, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated.”
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.
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.
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.
What the Research Says
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.
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Are you raising your prince or princess with a pet? What benefits have you noticed? Please comment and share below!