Seven Benefits of Having a Family Dog

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If you can’t tell from my previous post about installing a Pet Peek Window in our fence, we are dog people. Growing up, my family always had 2-4 dogs. My dad hunts and they had lots of land to run around on so it never felt like we were smothered by dogs. They were just always present.

So, it should come to no surprise that when I got my first job, I got my own dog. After Austin and I got married, we got another so now we have two: Sophie and Chauncey.

I grew up with a love for dogs and animals that I am excited to pass on to our children. As you can see in the video below, It hasn’t been too hard to instill a love for animals so far.

I realize that not everyone has the same affection for animals that I do. I also realize that not everyone has the lifestyle or health that would be accommodating to dog owning. Despite the list of reasons to not have a dog, I want to share the benefits of pet ownership we have seen and look forward to seeing in our kids because we have dogs.

7 Benefits of Having a Family Dog (or pet)

1) Dogs Help Kids to be More Active

I wonder how many miles our little gal has racked up by chasing our dogs around the house and yard. Whether it be playing with a tennis ball, trying to grab a tail or retrieving one of her toys, our dogs keep my daughter busy. She loves to follow them around and even join them under the bed. When I notice her getting bored and about to get in some trouble, I often tell her to “go find the doggies!” It works almost every time. When she gets older, I imagine she will take the dogs for walks and find other active games to play with them.

2) Pets=Stronger Immune Systems

Studies have shown that children who live in a home with a pet during their first year of life are more likely to be healthier, compared with kids who don’t live in a pet-owning household. This Time Magazine article and this Huffington Post Article explain why but simply put, when kids are exposed to dogs and cats at a young age, their immunity is built up which results in a stronger resistance to allergies and asthma. Score!

3) Dogs Toughen Your Kid Up

When I asked my husband what benefits he has seen from owning a dog, his first response was, “It toughens them up.” What he means by this is that our daughter has simply gotten used to being bumped around, slapped with a tail, stepped on, and occasionally knocked over. She doesn’t like this toughening up by any means but she is growing to tolerate the unexpected when around dogs. Because she’s grown accustomed to being bumped around a bit, she is more tolerant of when it happens outside the house as well. I’ve seen her take some major falls or bumps from other kids and not even be phased. I think this is partially due to the tough love she gets from the doggies.

4) Owning a Dog Can Teach Your Kids How to Care for God’s Creation

Growing up with dogs gave me a huge heart for the mistreated and homeless animals. I can hardly stand the sight of a hurting animal.  God has put us as stewards of this earth and part of that is taking care of his creatures. We have the power to do great good or great harm in this area. Owning a dog is a small way to teach kids to love his creation and feel empowered to love animals like He does. When you own animals and take care of them, this love come naturally and doesn’t necessarily have to be taught.

5) Owning a Dog Teaches Kids Responsibility

Even though my daughter is only 17 months, she sees us take care of our dogs on a daily basis. She sees them get fed twice a day, let outside, played with, drink from a full bowl of water, and occasionally disciplined. Even though she doesn’t quite comprehend what she is seeing, she will some day model our behavior. She will learn to think about something besides herself. She will learn to say no to certain behaviors and enforce rules. She will learn that a creature depends on her being responsible enough to remember to feed them. She will learn to take time out of her day to serve something other than herself. I look forward to delegating some pet responsibility to our kids when they get older. It’s a great way to learn!

6) Having Dogs Helps Us to Teach Boundaries

At a very young age, we’ve had to teach our daughter some boundaries with the dogs. For example, she knows to not touch the doggies when they are eating. She also knows to not play in the water bowl or to grab their hair. While she daily tests these boundaries, they have been a good opportunity to show her that the house does not revolve around her every want and desire.

She also had to learn at a very young age what the word “gentle” means. She learned to “pat-pat” instead of grab. These little tricks have come in handy in more ways than with just the animals. Just the other day we had a newborn at our house and we instructed Adelyn to be gentle with the baby. She knew exactly what we meant and went up and gave the baby a pat-pat on the leg.

7) Pet Owning Provides an Opportunity to Teach About Life and Death

While we haven’t had to cross this bridge yet, one day we will have to explain that one of our dogs isn’t coming home. I get a lump in my throat thinking about that conversation but I can’t think of a better way to teach a child about life and death. My hope is that it will equip them on how to handle the bigger loses and tragedies when they come later in life. We will go through the grieving process as a family and hopefully model for them a perspective on how to comprehend life and death from God’s point of view. Like I said, I in no way look forward to this part of pet owning but I hope to use the opportunity to teach our children how to grieve and suffer in a way that glorifies God.


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6 replies
  1. Jade Brunet says:

    I like what was said about how owning a dog can teach kids about responsibility. It is good to see children learn to care for animals and also see them think of something else other than themselves and develop the attribute of selflessness. My sister says that their dogs bond their family because they have the chance to share responsibility and fun at the same time.

  2. Kelly says:

    We are about to have a baby and have a 60-pound dog who LOVES people. She is good around kids but we are afraid she won’t understand that a newborn is fragile. Any tips on getting a large dog to be gentle around a tiny baby?

    • Polly says:

      Kelly- One thing I did when my gal was little was put up some gates to block off a room. That way I could lay my baby down on the floor for tummy time or to just play and I knew there wasn’t any chance of a dog stepping on her. It probably depends on the temperament of your dog but ours wasn’t all that interested in the infant. He give her a good sniff a few times a day but since newborns don’t do much, they aren’t all that interesting to dogs (at least in our experience). You just have to be careful about the accidental stuff and that can be avoided by blocking off an area or putting them in something off the floor. Once they get a few months old and can sit up it gets a little easier too. I really do think dogs know how to handle little ones. I mean, they instinctively know how to take care of their own newborn pups so I imagine they don’t see it much differently.

      One other thing we did was before we brought the baby home from the hospital, my husband brought a blanket home that she had been swaddled in and let the dogs sniff it over. That way her scent was familiar when we brought her home. Not sure if that helps but I know a lot of people recommend that.

      Congrats on your new baby!

  3. Beth says:

    Your video made me laugh so hard this morning–and then she let the dog lick the sucker–and stuck it back in her own mouth!! She sure does love that pooch. Great post, we, too, are dog lovers.

  4. Ward says:

    Not going to lie, Polly… when I first saw this picture (smaller resized) on Facebook, I thought she was checking out the backside 🙂