If you have a child, chances are she's asked -- maybe even begged -- for a pup of her own. And why not? Her point of reference is a cute, nonshedding, obedient stuffed animal that sits on the bed and doesn't move until the child decides it's playtime. While adults know that dogs take work, a child simply desires the emotional benefits: Playing with, teaching and nurturing a dog can enhance a child's emotional state. A dog can create a sense of belonging and instill responsibility in your child at a young age.
A dog can be a sense of comfort when things in the home seem unfair, parents get stressed and siblings squabble. It also helps bond families through daily walks, weekend hikes, playtime in the yard and even sadness when illness or death strikes. These things give children and adults opportunities to slow down and see life through a dog's eyes. It creates moments of joy and situations in which to connect with one another.
Children like to feel powerful and in charge. A dog in the home creates opportunities for these emotions to play out. A strong-willed child will get satisfaction from mastering one dog duty at a time, such as training the dog to do tricks. An insecure child can gain confidence by teaching obedience and experiencing compliance. The task-oriented child feels a sense of pride when he bathes his dog, picks up the poop and fulfills his household duties of providing fresh water and food daily. All these things give children a sense of responsibility with their furry friends and opportunities to see how dogs think, feel and learn.
A dog is a good nurturing tool for a child, especially for a boy who isn't likely to play with dolls or volunteer to babysit younger siblings. A child can comfort a dog when he's sick, brush his fur, be present at vet visits and stimulate the dog's mind through games and praise. Through these events and activities, children practice being caregivers and learn sympathy, patience and simple problem-solving skills that can better a dog's life.
If your child struggles with a health issue or is challenged when learning, a pup can motivate, relax and help her absorb information better. Children often feel supported by a dog who won't rush them while reading, correct their behavior or care if they sport the latest athletic shoes. The presence of a nonjudgmental pale relieves stress in children and also creates a sense of belonging with other children who have pets.
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