Owning a dog might be a lot of work, and sometimes it might not seem worth all the trouble. But having a dog does a lot for one’s mental health. In addition, they offer a unique companionship to their entire forever family, and dog ownership can help your child’s development in many ways. Here at seven ways having a dog can help your child’s development.

Reduce Stress
As an adult, life can be stressful (but we learn to adjust). For kids and teens, this is especially true. Between pressure at school, struggles with friends, and family drama, kids often have a lot on their plates. Your child needs to find ways to cope and deal with the stress of life. One great stress reliever is a dog.

Dogs provide all of the unconditional love and companionship in the world to their families, and they do this instinctively. When a child (or anyone) interacts with a dog, physiological changes happen because of this love. Your body decreases the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increases the production of dopamine and oxytocin (the feel-good hormones). This allows them to feel less stressed about what is bothering them.

Alleviates Loneliness
Has your child been feeling a little lonely lately? Have they been feeling excluded from their friends? Dogs will always serve as best friends to their owners, especially the young ones. And the furry kind is always the best! There is a reason they are called “Man’s best friend.”

There is always the possibility that, with another person, your child will feel excluded or weird. But that isn’t the case with a dog. They will never do anything to hurt your child’s feelings or exclude and ignore them. Instead, your dog will want to spend every second of the day with their best friend – Helping to alleviate the feeling of loneliness.

Helps Build Empathy and Compassion
Dogs are entirely dependent on their owners. They cannot make their food, give themselves water, or take themselves outside. Even their entertainment and exercise are dependent on others. Their reliance on us isn’t a bad thing. Their dependence on their owners sparks compassion and empathy in kids and teens.

Growing up, a child only knows what it is like to be them and how things affect them. A child needs to learn to look outside of themselves and see the world from another’s point of view – even if that view belongs to their furry best friend. For example, from a dog’s point of view, parents can talk with their children about what the dog might feel if they are hungry, cold, sad, ignored, and excluded. Getting your child to step back and think about another life is the first step to developing compassion, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

Provides Unconditional Love and Acceptance
Growing up can be especially difficult for some children. Growing up is very stressful between the fear of not fitting in anywhere and not knowing who they are. However, when a child grows up alongside a dog, there is always a safe place to be themselves.

They don’t care what you wear, what you say, or if you are the most famous person in the world. A dog will always love their family no matter what, never judging or rejecting them and always offering unconditional love, support, and acceptance.

Teaches Responsibility
Parents everywhere know it can be difficult to teach their children about responsibility, even the little things. Kids want to stay kids forever, shying away from responsibility for as long as possible. One way to get your child to want to be responsible is to make them accountable for something that they want – like a dog.

Becoming a dog owner is a great way to motivate your child to be responsible because they will have another living creature depending on them. From responsibility and maturity to follow-through and motivation, your child will learn everything it takes to keep their newfound 4-legged best friend happy and healthy. And all the lessons of responsibility learned from owning a dog will only benefit them later on in life.

Builds Self-Esteem and Confidence
Not knowing their place in the world yet, bullies, and several other things make growing up hard on children. In a world like this, it isn’t surprising how some children have low self-esteem and confidence. One thing that you can do at home to help build up your child’s self-esteem and confidence is to get a dog.

Yes, owning a dog is a big responsibility for everyone in the family. But allowing your child to help with the tasks that come with dog ownership helps them feel a sense of accomplishment after each job – allowing them to build a sense of independence and autonomy. Plus, the relationship they create and nurture with their dog will go a long way in giving them purpose and seeing themselves in a positive light.

Eases Anxiety
Did you know that dog ownership can impact a person’s mental health in many ways? With their ability to love unconditionally and without judgment, dogs are known to ease anxiety symptoms in their owners. Especially with children, dogs can alleviate anxiety in stressful situations – providing a calm, reassuring and encouraging presence.

If you are just THINKING about getting a dog, or if you already have one, remember one thing. Yes, owning a dog will be a lot of work (for the whole family). But the rewards for everyone in your family (including your child) far outweigh anything negative. Your new family member can provide unconditional love and support to the whole family.