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How Dogs Can Help Children Be Happier and Healthier

Dogs Make us Healthier and Happier

Families who have dogs know the extent to which our four-pawed friends can entertain, calm, and love us in a unique way. In New York, one in seven households owns at least one pup, testimony to the fact that we may be busy, but we always have time for Fido. In addition to teaching children important lessons such as discipline and responsibility, dogs also have measurable health effects; for one, their own health needs prompt us to head outside the home and ensure we go for a healthy walk daily. In this post, we highlight a few reasons why dogs can be helpful to humans of all ages.

Dogs can Boost Children’s Immunity

Forget about waiting until your children are older to get a dog; an important study carried out by researchers at the University of Wisconsin Department of Pediatrics found that when we introduce a dog to a child soon after they are born, the child can build immunity and reduce the likelihood of contracting allergies, as well as stave off wheezing and atopic dermatitis. Two further studies showed that being born into a home with a dog can help prevent allergic eczema, and lower the risk of asthma, even in children who are allergic to dogs.

Improving Social Skills in Children with Autism

A study carried out at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that dogs could help children with autism interact more with others and be more assertive. It is easy to see how dogs often form the spark that starts a conversation in parks and other public areas. The researchers noted that it is a lot easier to respond to questions from strangers when it is about a dog. Somehow, a love for pets creates bonds that are otherwise difficult to commence.

Building Confidence

A lack of self-confidence can hamper one’s happiness and mental wellbeing. One study undertaken at Tuft University focused on the ability of pets to enhance this quality in children from military families, who had to face frequent moves of residence. The researchers found that when these kids had a pet, they enjoyed a greater sense of security, self-confidence, and competence.

Dogs vs Obesity

A new study carried out at the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Industry has shown that babies born to families with pets (70% of which were dogs) had higher levels of two specific microbes linked to a lower likelihood of allergic disease and obesity. The theory is that being exposed to bacteria in a dog’s fur or paws can build early immunity. The researchers noted that the benefits of pet exposure occurred both during  pregnancy and during the first three months of the baby’s life.

Quelling Pain and Depression

Recent research carried out at the University of Calgary has revealed that living with a dog can reduce chronic pain and depression. Dogs give people a reason to get out of the house and meet others. They can also battle depression and anxiety but naturally putting people in a mindful state; one in which they are enjoying the present moment with their dog rather than worrying about the future. The researchers discovered incredible stories, such as one of a man with depression who had made three suicide attempts before realizing that if he were gone, there would be nobody to look after his dog.

Dogs are unconditionally loving, fun, and active. They encourage us to head outdoors and meet people and have a myriad of beneficial effects on our immune system. Of course, most families would probably agree that even without the large body of literature supporting the usefulness of having a dog, life is infinitely more fun with a furry friend.

This article was contribued by Jane Wood.  

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