Dogs could aid early emotional development

July 10, 2020

Dogs have many benefits for children. An investigation examines how life with a dog may improve emotional development.

Few things seem more like typical childhood than time spent with a dog. Life with a dog has been shown to have a number of benefits for children and a new study in Pediatric Research suggests that time spent with a dog could improve social and emotion development.1

Investigators asked 1646 parents with preschoolers if their families owned a dog as well as how frequently the child went on the family dog walk or played with the dog. A parent-report version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire measured the children’s social-emotional development.

They found that children who were in dog-owning households had a lower likelihood of peer problems, conduct problems, and total difficulties when compared to children who were in households that did not own a dog. Children growing up with dogs also had an increased likelihood of prosocial behavior. An increase in prosocial behaviors was found in households where the child engaged in family dog walking at least 1 time a week and when the child actively played with the dog at least 3 times a week. Additionally, family dog walking at least 1 time a week was linked to reduced likelihood of total difficulties.

The researchers concluded that dog ownership in early childhood was linked to both social-emotional development benefits as well as physical activity benefits. These positives could present in early childhood.

Reference

1. Wenden EJ, Lester L, Zubrick SR, Ng M, Christian HR. The relationship between dog ownership, dog play, family dog walking, and pre-schooler social–emotional development: findings from the PLAYCE observational study. Pediatr Res. July 6, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1038/s41390-020-1007-2