Research says, having a dog as a kid is amazing for your mental health

Countless studies have been done to show the positive associations between having a pet dog and the mental well-being of the adults who have them. People who have dogs are happier with a dog than without one, which really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has a dog. Because if you’re a dog lover, chances are you love coming home from a long day at work to a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed (literally), adorable dog who wants nothing more than to love on you and be best friends forever.

But few studies have been done to show what affects having a dog has on the mental health of children, which is exactly why we’re bringing your attention to a new study done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on pet dogs and children’s health. Having a dog as a kid is the absolute best, and since Hanukkah and Christmas are coming up, well, you know what to do. Just kidding. No pressure.

The new study from the CDC surveyed 643 parents about their kids’ mental and physical health, which included questions about nutrition, physical activity, anxiety, and emotional difficulties. Researchers found that fewer kids raised in a home with a dog were described as “anxious” by their parents, compared to the kids growing up in a home without a dog.

The authors of the study found no difference in the BMI (body mass index) between kids who own dogs and kids who don’t, but they did cite the National Institute of Health, which “found that dog owners who walk their dogs are significantly more likely to meet physical activity guidelines are less likely to be obese than non-dog owners or walkers; by providing motivation and social support, pets make it easier for owners to adopt long-term behavior changes that lead to weight loss and other positive health outcomes.”

The authors of the study suggest that the opportunities for play and physical activity are endless for kids and their dogs. They also suggest that kids who have dogs gain an early understanding of the importance of taking care of the dog and building a trusting relationship. And once that relationship is solid, the dog may even be able to help the child with overcoming social or separation anxiety.

According to the study, “Because anxiety disorders often start in childhood, often persist into adulthood, and have the longest delays for treatment. . . addressing subthreshold conditions in primary care settings during childhood is a reasonable target for preventive interventions.”

So for all parents whose kids have been begging to get a dog, now there’s proof that owning a dog can have longterm benefits for both the parents and the kids. You’re welcome, kids!

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(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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