New Study Indicates Preschoolers Benefit from Owning a Dog
The benefit of owning a dog can be traced back to early childhood, according to a recent study from the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute. Researchers found that children aged 2-5 who regularly interacted with and walked their family dog had a reduced likelihood of behavioral and social problems.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatric Research, surveyed 1,646 parents and asked them questions about whether they owned a dog and how frequently the child interacted with and helped walk the dog. Parents were also asked about the child’s emotional and social development.
About 42% of the households surveyed owned dogs and children from these households were 30 to 40 percent less likely to have behavioral or peer problems. They were also 34% more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior such as sharing and cooperating with others than children who did not have a dog.
Children also saw a greater benefit when they interacted more with their canine companions. Walking the family dog at least once per week and active play with the family dog at least three times a week increased the likelihood of the preschoolers’ pro-social behavior by up to 74%.
"We’re increasingly learning that pet ownership within families can have fantastic benefits for children’s physical and social development,” said associate professor Hayley Christian of Telethon Kids Institute, who was a researcher on the study.
Christian said the strength of the study’s results was unexpected and that more research needs to be done into why dog ownership has these benefits for children. Her team is now looking at children aged 5-8 years old and how they benefit from interacting with dogs.