Getting a family pet is a life-changing event, and while they may cover your house in hair or cause mayhem when they get loose, pets are very good for a child's social and emotional development.


These are 10 ways in which your family pet can benefit your child.


1. Companionship

A pet can provide great love and companionship to your child; and if you have a shy child or an only child, a furry friend can be a great comfort to them. Plus, they’ll never fall out with their pet or have a silly squabble –  a common occurrence with siblings and best friends.


2. Responsibility

Caring for a pet can teach your child how to be responsible. From cleaning out cages, toilet-training, taking them to the vet, providing food and water, and taking them out for exercise - pet ownership is a great responsibility.


Before you get a pet, ensure your child knows that it won’t all be fun and games, and they will need to devote plenty of time to caring for their new pet.


3. Safety

A dog can be a safety aid if your child finds themselves in an emergency or a dangerous scenario.


We’ve all heard amazing stories of devoted pets alerting others when their owner is in danger, or has had an accident. In Russia, a stray cat saved an abandoned baby boy’s life by curling up to him and keeping him warm until someone found him!


Animals are also more sensitive to weather changes and have been known to alert their owners about impending storms, earthquakes and tornadoes.



4. Emotional benefits

Stroking a pet is proven to lower stress levels, so if your little one is going through a bad time or has had a hard day at school, quality time with their pet could make a huge difference to their wellbeing.


Playing with pets is also proven to release endorphins and “happy hormones”.


Not only that, but caring for a pet can teach your child about empathy and compassion, which is very important for their emotional development and learning to relate to others.


5. Health benefits

Having a pet can even prevent your child developing allergies and improve immunity. Early childhood exposure to pets has been proven to lower the risk of developing allergic reactions later in life.


According to PETA, a study of more than 800 children in Switzerland found an inverse relationship between contact with dogs, and diagnoses of hay fever and asthma; whereas children who had “early and current contact" with cats were associated with reduced risk of wheezing and grass pollen sensitisation.



6. Helpful for special needs children

If your child has special needs, interacting and playing with other children may be very difficult for them.


Children with sensory issues may like holding a pet, while helping out with a pet’s daily routine can provide stability to children who suffer from ADHD.


7. Social benefits

If your child is shy and finds it hard to mix, their pet can be a great ice-breaker in otherwise awkward social situations. Talking to others while taking their dog out for a walk, or showing their pet off when a visitor calls can allow them to socialise and feel confident.


8. Helpful for emotional trauma

Children who have been through a traumatic experience in the past can find it hard to express themselves and trust others. A pet can help them feel safer; for instance, horse-riding has been shown to help children recovering from PTSD.



9. Helpful for children with a disability

Whether it’s a therapy dog or a family pet, a furry companion often proves to be a great friend to a disabled child. A guide dog can help a disabled child explore the world and enjoy their freedom while offering protection.


10. Teaches your child important life lessons

The birth, death or illness of a pet can have very important life lessons for your child.


The loss of a pet is incredibly sad, but it can help your child develop coping skills for later in life. It’s also important for your child to learn about the need to spay or neuter your pet.