8 Ways Pets Are Good for You

Here are some of the ways your furry friends benefit your kids.

Happy Little Girl Holding Puppy Dog
Photo: bbernard/Shutterstock

Welcoming a four-legged friend to your family might add a little chaos at first, but studies show that growing up with a pet can lead to loads of benefits. Here are eight advantages of getting a pet

Ease Stress

In one study at the University of Florida, kids completed a public-speaking and mental- arithmetic task (activities that raise cortisol levels) with either their dog or a parent present for social support, or no one. Kids who had their dog with them said they felt less stressed compared with the kids who had a parent with them or no support. Plus, snuggling with a furry pet lowers your blood pressure levels, and it raises "good mood" chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

Boost Immunity

When children are born into a home that already has a pet, they develop higher levels of gut microbes that protect them against allergies and obesity, found a study published in Microbiome.

Strengthen Social Skills

Kids with autism who live with any kind of pet are more likely to engage in a variety of social situations such as introducing themselves, asking for info, or responding to people's questions, according to research from the University of Missouri.

Encourage Activity

In a 2011 Michigan State University study, half the dog walkers averaged 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week; only a third of the non-dog-walkers moved as much.

Teach Responsibility

Divvy up pet-related chores to your children to teach responsibility. For example, on odd-numbered days, tell your son to fill his food and water bowls and take him for daily walks – no exemptions for bad moods or bad weather. Your daughter must do the same on even-numbered days.

Improve Literacy

In a South African study, school-age kids who were considered poor readers read to either a dog, a teddy bear, an adult, or no one. After reading for 20 minutes a week for ten weeks, those who partnered with pups had the highest reading rate, accuracy, and comprehension.

Feel Less Lonely

Pet owners tend to be less lonely and have higher self-esteem, says a 2011 Miami University and St. Louis University study. And animals offer comfort as well as joy, since they lend a nonjudgmental ear to kids' secrets and sorrows. As the saying goes: "To err is human, to forgive, canine."

Teach About Life

Animals often provide the first lessons about life: birth, reproduction, illnesses, accidents, and death.

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