In my experience, there's no "right" time to do, well, anything in life. Whether it's deciding to have kids, taking a job, moving to a new state, or starting a relationship, change often occurs when we least expect it and not when we're 100 percent prepared. This is especially true when it comes to adopting a new pet. The responsibility of an added family member may seem like a lot — especially if you have kids — but there are a few surprising benefits to adopting a dog when you have a preschooler.
Among the many obvious benefits to owning a dog (like constant love and affection, not to mention puppy snuggles), kids can learn about responsibility and pet ownership. Children as young as preschoolers can gain a sense of accomplishment when they help feed and walk the family dog and, according to the HuffPost, that feeling can boost their self-esteem and teach them empathy. I don't know about you, but I absolutely want to teach my kids those aforementioned lessons... and from time to time would love the help of a furry friend.
Dogs also help young children learn how to make friends, start conversations, and balance their wants with the needs and wants of someone else. So while a pet is another mouth to feed and will undoubtably require some potty training of his or her own, here are some benefits to adopting a new furry friend when your child is preparing to enter preschool:
They Help Teach Empathy
Research suggests there's a connection between a bond with a pet and a stronger sense of empathy, according to The Washington Post. The reason, according to researchers, is because your pet pulls your preschooler our of their own head and teaches them to "read nonverbal cues — facial expressions, body language, and gestures." These lessons can be applied in school with their classmates and as they learn to navigate their newfound role as student.
They Teach Confidence
According to the American Kennel Club, successfully completing tasks help boost a child's self-esteem. So if your child is tasked with, say, walking the dog or feeding them their daily bowl of food, completing these tasks could help your child learn that they're capable of reaching goals and accomplishments. As a result, they'll feel more confident in their abilities.
They Help Kids Feel Supported
The American Kennel Club highlights a report that states kids feel more supported when they have a pet. According to the aforementioned report, "Pets can make people feel unconditionally accepted, whereas fellow humans will judge and may criticize." Just like a dog gives unconditional love to their adult owner, they can give unconditional love to their child owner, too.
They Encourage Responsibility
Petcentric says preschoolers learn responsibility through caring for their dog by making sure their fed and have water. These lessons carry over into school and when they're responsible for studying or getting homework done on time.
They Help Children Manage Stress
Not only does pet ownership get you outside (hello, someone has to walk the dog!) and active, but it can also help decrease stress levels. According to the American Kennel Club, "petting a dog has been proven to lower cortisol levels in both the person and the pet." The same site notes that research has found that children's stress levels "decrease when reading aloud to a dog."
They Help Kids Learn
Did you know kids with dogs may actually have a leg up in preschool and beyond? Preschoolers who practice reading aloud to their dogs may turn out to be better readers, boosting their intelligence.
They Help Keep Kids Healthy
Studies show children with dogs develop better immunity to allergies and have stronger immune systems. And when children do get sick, children with pets tend to get over their illness quicker than children who don't have pets (specifically dogs).
Not only are adopted dogs amazing friends, but they're working hard to make sure your preschooler gets the best start in school and beyond.