When deciding if adopting a new pet is the right option for your family, there is a lot to consider. It’s easy to think of the extra labor and stress that comes with adding a four-legged companion to the household, not to mention your little humans running around as well. But once we look beyond those immediate factors, there are several benefits to owning a pet that can greatly impact your child’s growth and wellbeing. Let’s take a look at six reasons why growing up with pets is good for kids.

Teaches Them Responsibility
This is the reason that comes first to mind for most. Feeding, walking, brushing, and cleaning up after a pet (just to name a few) are great chores for children to learn the importance of responsibility. In addition, they’ll develop a sense of personal fulfillment witnessing how their hard work translates to the health and wellbeing of their best friend.

Improves Health
Studies show that children who live in a home with a pet during their first year of life are more likely to be healthier, compared to kids without a pet. Being exposed to furry friends at an early age can help stimulate the immune system, helping fight off infections at a faster rate.

Reduces Anxiety
It’s no secret that animals have an incredible ability of helping reduce stress and anxiety in humans. The love, happiness, and excitement we feel for our pets is already a major mental health boost. Providing your child with a fun and cuddly companion can help ease their pain and/or stress on the tough days, and can fill the void of loneliness. Cuddling with and sharing space with a pet can increase oxytocin production and levels of serotonin, which in turn decreases levels of stress and lower blood pressure.

Builds Self-Confidence
A pet, in a way, is an upgrade from an imaginary friend. Kids will try to relate to their pets and use them as close companions as they understand and learn about the world they live in. They will talk to their pet, play with them, and even experience moments of anger or frustration. In these moments, children are exploring their own emotions, and to be able to do that without the fear of being judged by their pet can play a significant role in boosting their self-confidence and emotional intelligence.

Models Healthy Habits
Kids get to witness their “best friend” engaging in healthy eating habits. Pets are typically on a strict feeding schedule, and treats are given at a minimum to avoid overeating. If you’re a parent, you know the struggles of getting your kids to eat healthy meals in full or to not eat so many sweets! You can use your pet as real-time example to teach your kids the importance of eating consistently and healthy.

Specific to owning a dog, kids naturally have more opportunities to get out of the house and exercise. Going for long walks, hikes, and taking trips to the dog park are just a few examples of activities that can support your child in being active and not always in front of screens. Not to mention, this type of activity is fun!

Encourages Cooperation Between Siblings
Sure, owning a pet could just be another thing for your kids to fight over. However, they will soon realize that that will only hurt their furry friend. In the end, your children want the pet to be happy, which will challenge them to raise their standards of cooperation and compromise. What’s more, pets are great at bringing family members together and creating opportunities to strengthen family bonds.