Research Shows Dog Ownership Improves Self Esteem and Empathy in Children

Children EmpathyVarious research projects have addressed the relationships between children and pets.  Ownership of dogs and cats has been connected with increased sense of responsibility, higher levels of empathy, and even higher IQ scores in children.  Some of these studies have suggested that it’s more than just having a pet in the house.  The benefits correlate with the amount of interaction the child has with the pet.  Recently, Robert Bierer, a PhD in Social Psychology and child counselor, conducted a study of dogs and children.

Bierer took a psychological profile of 126 school aged children at three different schools.  He found a strong correlation between higher levels of self-esteem and dog ownership.  He also found that children who owned dogs showed higher levels of empathy toward fellow children.

The correlation was strongest in children aged 10 to 12.  Bierer commented “. . . this is when it really makes a big difference.  A dog doesn’t judge whether you’re right or wrong.  When you’re on your way into adolescence – which is a challenging time – having that secure base, that unconditional, nonjudgmental relationship with a dog is very helpful.”

The higher ratings in empathy and self-esteem hold true whether the dog is considered the child’s dog or the family’s dog.  Other variables such as number of parents in the household and the presence of siblings also did not affect the positive effects attributed to dog ownership.

(Bierer, Robert E. “The Relationship Between Pet Bonding, Self-Esteem, and Empathy in Preadolescents.” Pub# 9993506, Arizona State University, 2000.)

While children are often attracted to puppies and kittens, Healing Springs Animal Hospital recommends that people also consider older dogs and cats as pets.  An older dog with a good temperament is less likely to nip a child and set the relationship off on a bad foot.  Other advantages of adopting older pets include:

  1.     they are calmer, more self-confident, and more relaxed
  2.     adult dogs are less likely to chew furniture
  3.     adult dogs usually come house trained or are easier to house train than puppies

The Galax-Carroll-Grayson Animal Shelter near Felt’s Park has many eager to please dogs and cats up for adoption everyday.  They are open Tuesday through Saturday.  Call them at (276) 236-8501

Various research projects have addressed the relationships between children and pets.  Ownership of dogs and cats has been connected with increased sense of responsibility, higher levels of empathy, and even higher IQ scores in children.  Some of these studies have suggested that it’s more than just having a pet in the house.  The benefits correlate with the amount of interaction the child has with the pet.  Recently, Robert Bierer, a PhD in Social Psychology and child counselor, conducted a study of dogs and