It should come as no surprise to those of us fortunate enough to have shared most of our lives with a dog that the benefits of having one far outweigh the 3am vomit blowouts and the times our favorite shoes were eaten. Dogs have long been valued as an important part of growing up, and scientific studies have backed this with results that suggest that children can learn a lot more from dogs than we once thought.
Empathetic intelligence, or the ability to feel empathy for others, is developed in childhood. Unlike IQ, which people are born with, empathetic intelligence (EQ) is learned through daily experience and observation. Studies show that pets are an integral part in the nurturing of a child’s EQ. If your child has a dog, chances are she is learning empathy every day through interacting with her best friend. Here are 5 ways your child’s EQ is being nurtured by your dog.
1. Helping kids learn to read.
Dogs don’t judge you if you stumble over a word and they don’t care if you’re reading too slowly. By lending a supportive ear (and paw), dogs help children learn to read out loud.
2. Learning to show empathy.
Taking care of a pup requires a person to step outside himself and think of someone else’s needs. Also, dogs can’t exactly say, “I’m hungry! Feed me!” so your child has to rely on other cues to understand his dog.
3. Developing self-esteem and taking responsibility.
Giving a child defined tasks and rewards for completing them fosters a sense of responsibility and raises her self-esteem. And having a dog is an incredibly rewarding responsibility.
4. Stress relief.
Puppy kisses, laughing at each other when one stumbles down the stairs, playing hide-and-seek: sharing playtime with a pup is one of the perks of having a dog. Child development expert Denise Daniels states:
“At the National Childhood Grief Institute, we conducted a study with the Delta Society using certified Golden Retrievers in children’s support groups. A therapy dog would sit in front of an emotional child and put its head in the child’s lap. As the child started petting the dog, you could visibly see the child relax. We studied the blood pressure readings of the dogs and the kids, and the experience lowered the blood pressure of both.”
5. Learning to express emotions.
In a study conducted in which children were asked who they turn to when they have problems, many mentioned their pets. Our dogs are often there to lick away the tears and place their paw on our knee as if to say, “I’m here.” It is no wonder, then, why we call our dogs our best friends.
Featured image via Anthony Crider/ Flickr