Dogs Can Do Wonders For Kids With Anxiety

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Since dogs have a tremendous impact on both our mental and physical health, scientists have recently been oriented toward research that would determine whether pooches have a similar effect on children. One of those studies wanted to discover if pet dogs can help prevent obesity in children. Though the researchers came up with inconclusive results, they found out something that could change the lives of thousands of kids. Namely, children who live and grow up with dogs generally feel less anxious and stressed out.

While this conclusion might seem like something all dog lovers and owners already know, it’s important to back up this kind of knowledge with scientific data and this is exactly what the researchers from Bassett Medical Center in New York did. They examined 643 kids aged 4-10 for 18 months and came to the conclusion that 21 percent of children who didn’t live with a dog tested positive on an anxiety screening test while only 12 percent among the 58 percent of kids with a dog at home experienced signs of anxiety.

Researchers explained the chemical aspect of their research in a study published by the CDC, saying that interacting with a pet dog reduces cortisol levels due to an increased oxytocin release, which contributes to feelings of happiness. Here’s what they concluded:

These hormonal effects may underlie the observed emotional and behavioral benefits of animal-assisted therapy and pet dogs.

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The study also pointed out that some children even found the benefits of interacting with a dog more valuable that those they get when spending time with other humans. The researchers said that children aged 7 to 8 often find their relationship with dogs more important than their relationship with humans because they perceive dogs as superior providers of comfort and self-esteem.

However, this isn’t only the case with dogs, or kids, for that matter. Pet owners, in general, are less likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression than people who don’t have pets. Moreover, pet therapy has a positive effect on a number of mental health disabilities, including anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, mood, obsessive-compulsive and many other disorders.

As far as obesity in kids in concerned, this particular study was unable to prove anything, but previous research has discovered that pet owners who take their pets for walks get more exercise than those folks who don’t have pets. Furthermore, pet owners generally have better indicators of cardiovascular health and 29 percent of smokers said that they would quit smoking because they wouldn’t want to harm their pets in any way.

Apart from the obvious perks of growing up with a dog, these findings should definitely motivate parents to bring a pooch into their household. Not only will their kids have a friend for life, but dogs will also make them feel healthier, safer and more confident.


RELATED: Kids & Pups: 21 Ideal Family Dog Breeds


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