Dogs and Children 

The Hidden Benefits of Having a Family Dog    

For many years the benefits of guide dogs for the blind and assistance dogs has been recognised and well documented. Therapy dogs provide much joy and benefits to those they visit in hospitals and nursing home settings. The value of owning and caring for a family dog is, in my opinion, a lot greater than one could imagine.

A new puppy or dog can be a great way of teaching children important lessons responsibility, cooperation and caring for another.  They can bring a lot of love and affection to the family, and can help all of the family to get fitter and healthier. They can provide a sense of security and comfort and can be a great way to interact with other people.

From the moment a new puppy or rescue dog arrives in the family home, the dynamic changes Children develop a sense of responsibility and strive to care for and attend to the needs of the new arrival. A clean bed fresh water meals etc. all have to be provided. All the children within a family can become involved in providing these needs. A new puppy will have accidents during house training and a rota for cleaning up duties can be organised. A pup has to be supervised to prevent bad habits or accidents such as eating shoes /rugs etc. All family members can be involved in this supervision and training. As with children, boundaries (albeit different boundaries!) have to be set and appropriate behaviour praised and rewarded.

A schedule has to be created for a new pup. All the children in the family can play a part in creating this schedule and sticking to a routine. This could involve bringing the pup outside in the garden for play or grooming using a dog brush or perhaps some basic training using command and reward.

So far this all sounds like hard work, but in a family setting, this can be a lot of fun and an activity in which all members can become involved.

We do not always have as much time as we would like to show and receive affection. A young dog will thrive on affection, petting, play, gentle touch. A dog or pup will respond to this treatment in a very positive way. This interaction will have a very positive effect on children within a family and contribute in a significant way to family life.

Regular exercise is essential to keeping your dog fit and healthy. A dog will play Frisbee or bring back a ball. A dog will almost never refuse a good walk. The family that owns a dog is more likely to go for frequent walks/hikes etc., and we all now understand the health benefits of regular exercise.

The presence of a family dog provides a sense of security and comfort to family members. A lonely or upset child can get huge comfort from just petting or hugging a family dog. A family dog becomes a lifelong companion not just to younger members of a family but also frequently to older members and grandparents. The presence of a family dog provides security. A family member at home alone is never alone when in the company of their four-legged furry companion. A person walking a dog is more likely to become involved in social interaction than a person walking alone. This interaction allows people to connect with each other in a positive way.

Personally I believe the value of owning a family dog is great and incalculable. But then I am possibly biased. I have the pleasure of working with family pets on a daily basis.

Local Limerick Vet

For information on Child Safety and Heath Around Pets click on the HSE Document below
HSE Children & Pet Safety Guide