Kids and pets are a fantastic combination.  An animal and a child find loving unconditional friendship with one another.  Additionally, companion animals have a positive impact on young humans as far as teaching responsibility and compassion for other living beings.  This is incredibly important for a child’s personal growth.  Still, care should be taken when bringing pets and kids together.  

The Benefits of Pets:

  • Learning - Pets are perfect study buddies. The quiet, non-judgmental, low-stress audience allows children to confidently read, think, and problem solve.
  • Responsibility - Chores are part of having companion animals. Completing pet-related chores instills a sense of responsibility early in a child’s life and a concern and care for other living beings.
  • Comfort - Companion animals love their humans unconditionally and seem to know exactly when you need them most.  Pets are perfect for the harder days of youth.  
  • Security - Dogs, specifically, are terrific alarms and can help children feel safe.
  • Compassion - Caregiving is a skill that needs to be practiced, and pets are perfect for just that.
  • Health - Kids with pets are significantly less likely to have allergies, experience depression, or need to visit a doctor.  
  • Exercise - Pets demand playtime and exercise of their owners.  
  • Build Family Bonds - Animals are central in a household. Pets provide shared experiences, conversations, and interactions that strengthen family relationships.  
  • Cure boredom - There is always something that needs to be done with pets, even if that something is just loving them.  
  • Friends - Social interactions can be difficult at any age. Pets give kids good stories, common ground, and opportunities for socialization.

Before bringing pets and children together, however, consider that certain pets are better with children of certain ages.  Small, safe, independent pets like hermit crabs or goldfish can be introduced to toddlers at about one year of age.  Three or four years old is a great time to include more involved and affectionate pets, like guinea pigs.  And while dogs can be great for any aged child, if you are looking for the perfect time to introduce a new dog, grade school, or about five-years-old or after, is an excellent time.  Further, some dogs adapt and play better with younger children than others, so taking the time to match the personality is also important.  Good animal adoption centers and rescue organizations can help with this task.

Of course, these guidelines are meaningless if there are already pets in the household before the child arrives.  In such cases, slowly introduce pets to new infants and supervise their time together.  Just because a new family member comes along, does not mean an existing family member gets pushed out.  Some pets need to be taught proper behavior around children and the same goes for the children around the pets.  With a little effort, bringing a pet into a child’s life will be an overwhelmingly positive experience.