Kids with pet dogs have fewer social problems than other children

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Young children with family dogs were 23% less likely to have social interaction problems than children whose households do not have a dog, some recent research suggests.

The finding comes from an analysis of data from a three-year study of 1,646 households with preschool children ages 2 to 5. Specifically, the researchers found that children who had a dog were 30% less likely to engage in antisocial behavior and 40% less likely to have problems interacting with other children than were youngsters from homes that did not include a dog.

In addition, children who had dogs were 34% more likely to engage in considerate behaviors, such as sharing or helping others. And the more time they spent playing with their dog the more a child was likely to be considerate—those who had three or more play sessions with their dog each week were 74% more likely to be consistently considerate compared with those who played less often.

One of the researchers said that the “mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviors and emotions.” The study also noted that the “findings suggest that the benefits from owning a pet [dog] may commence early in childhood.” The research did not, however, prove a cause-and-effect link between a dog and a child’s behavior, stating that it could be coincidental that youngsters with good social and emotional development have dogs or that the families of children with dogs may offer more nurturing environments.

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