February 1, 2024

How Dogs Help Children Develop Social and Emotional Skills

Is your child begging for a puppy? If you have the means to take care of one, you might want to consider it. Sure they cost money, make big messes, and need to be walked on a timed schedule.

Is your child begging for a puppy? If you have the means to take care of one, you might want to consider it. Sure they cost money, make big messes, and need to be walked on a timed schedule. They also teach responsibility and impact social and emotional development in some very valuable and interesting ways.

A study comparing children with dogs at home to those without, found that the children who were dog owners were significantly more empathic and pro-social (Vidovic, Stetic & Bratko). The
stronger the attachment to the dog, the stronger this effect may be. The study also found that children with higher levels of attachment to pets reported more positive feelings about their family and home, than those with low attachment to pets. A dog can make a home feel safe and warm. Children and adults alike feel a unique sense of security just knowing that they can depend on that unconditional comfort every day. Children respond wonderfully to the love that given by dogs, so genuine and free of judgment.

When it comes to child development, I find the role of pets fascinating. Research speculates that companionship with a pet not only provides gratification for the child, but it also may help them create better relationships with other people.

I don’t mean to leave out cats, etc—all pets are great! Research tends to focus more on dogs as they are able to serve a variety of functions and are often trained as therapy dogs, service dogs, etc. From my own personal experiences with dogs, all of what I’ve heard is true. I believe growing up with a dog helped me to be empathic toward others, and it’s a unique bond I continue with my own dog now.

Pets Help Us Improve Our:

• Empathy skills

• Social skills

• Relationships

• Coping skills

• Self-esteem

• Family climate

• Responsibility

• Stress management


Vidovic V., Stetic V., Bratko D. (1999). Pet Ownership, Type of Pet and Socio-Emotional Development of School Children. Originally published in Anthrozoos, Vol. 12, No. 4, 1999, pps 211-217.

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

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