I was lucky to have grown up with my family dog, a West Highland Terrier, named Tucker. His stubbornness taught my brothers and I a lot about patience that we now use in our adult lives. From the daily responsibilities of caring for a dog, to the bond you form with them, your kids should have a dog to grow up with as they can impact young children in a number of positive ways.
My brothers and I have always lived with a family dog ever since we were little, and with a dog, comes responsibilities and opportunities to learn. At a young age, we were taught to take on responsibilities for Tucker like letting him outside (and picking up after him if needed), feeding him meals and treating him on occasion, and brushing his hair to prevent matting, a common ailment in long-haired Terriers. These responsibilities quickly turned into everyday tasks that we all enjoyed as our love for him grew stronger.
Mental and Physical Health Benefits
Especially for me being an only girl with three brothers, Tucker was my best friend. He knew everything about my life. He was my emotional support system in times when I just needed to vent. Whether it was a tough day at school, trouble with friends, annoyance from the brothers, he heard it all. And he always listened! He may have been asleep for most of it, but I always felt at ease while cuddling next to him and letting it out. I trusted Tucker with everything.
Having a family pet gives kids a chance to create this bond while teaching empathy, social skills, and self-esteem. Beyond the many emotional benefits of having a dog as a child, physical benefits have been proven as well. According to Michigan State University, research shows that “children who live in homes with a dog can possibly have fewer ear infections and respiratory tract infections and require fewer antibiotics”.
A family pet can bring more physical activity to a family unit. There are the routine walks, the long hikes with them on challenging trails, chasing them around playing, and a dog can maybe even tire out the kids as they playfully run after each other. With a dog to care for, there’s no doubt that your family will become active, if not more active.
It would be remiss not to acknowledge the positive impact a family pet can having on the family unit. Dogs can fill specialized needs that can support your family, perhaps without you even realizing.
Special Needs, Special Dogs
What made Tucker even more special for my family was the impact he had on my Autistic brother. Dogs can turn into special companions for children with Autism. My brother quickly became attached at the hip with Tucker when we first got him and he started to find comfort in being by Tucker’s side. He did everything we did for Tucker, to an extent, teaching him responsibilities. Tucker was a big sensory factor in my brother’s life whether it was the physical touch of his fur or just simply his head resting on my brother’s lap in moments of high anxiety. It was amazing how Tucker could sense when my brother was getting upset and knew to be by his side.
In all, growing up with a dog can make childhood’s memories more memorable. I will forever cherish the love Tucker taught me. He holds a special place in each of our hearts and we’re so grateful for the impactful bond he had with my brother. If you are asking yourself, “should I get my kids a dog?”, consider the positive impact a dog could bring your family.
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Written by MELISSA DEROO