30 June 2018

Children and Dogs – A Bridge to Nature guest post

In Nov 2016, Animal Medicines Australia released its Pet Ownership in Australia Report, providing insight into the state of pet ownership in this country.  At 62%, Australia continues to have one of the highest household rates of pet ownership in the world with 5.7 million of Australia’s 9.2 million households home to a pet. Dogs remain the most popular type of pet.

Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital in its report agreed that pets are an integral part of  our lives as Australians - some 80% of Australians have an animal companion at some time in their life. Sometimes pet relationships are ranked higher than certain kinds of human relationships for comfort, esteem, support and confidence, with benefits in areas of child development, family harmony and health.

For a more detailed examination, let us go over to Mat Coulton of Wileypup, with thanks for his text, photos and links.

Recent scholarship has demonstrated the health benefits dogs offer their human companions. The scientific research found 15 ways in which positive health effects come from time spent with dogs! These studies have focused on measurable physical and mental health indicators such as lower levels of stress, reduced blood pressure and heart rates, lower levels of obesity, and decreased feelings of anxiety, depression and social isolation. 

However, our canine companions are also playing a role in how we understand the world around us by serving as a bridge between our modern lives and the splendour of the nature. In particular, they may be a valuable asset in helping children connect intellectually, emotionally and spatially with the environment.

An Age-Old Connection
It may surprise many readers to learn that the oldest domesticated animal that joined the human evolutionary journey was, in fact, Canis familiaris, the domesticated dog. Their presence as invited members in human societies predates horses and livestock.

In fact, this relationship with dogs is so old that modern science has begun to demonstrate evidence of the co-evolution of humans with these important companion animals. Not only has our social organisation been shaped by canines, our biological selves have likely been influenced by our cooperation with them.

The connection goes deeper than hand to harness, the relationship with dogs is clearly significant, however, what do we know about how they may be impacting the lives of our children? Let us take a closer look.

Dogs have a way of reaching us with their unconditional love and loyalty. Children often develop empathetic bonds with dogs which is an important aspect of breaking through the often transactional and entertainment driven exchanges with modern technology.

Emotional Intelligence
Learning to understand that other animals have their own emotional reality is an important part of emotional intelligence, also known as EQ. It turns out that EQ is related to better mental health, lower rates of risky behaviour, and higher levels of educational success in children.

Interest in Biology
Interactions with dogs may prepare children to take an interest in learning about biology. Although this is an area in need of more study, research does show that children’s interest in and sense of basic biological concepts is improved by spending time with, and particularly taking part in the care of, our companion animals, such as pet dogs.

Dogs have a natural curiosity about the world around them that is simply contagious. They instinctively set about investigating the sights, feels, and smells of outdoor spaces inspiring adults and children alike to wonder about the mystery and adventure that awaits when we put down the video games and social media to take in wild spaces.

Environmental Stewardship
Caring for a pet gives children a chance to understand the positive impact that taking responsibility for the well being of others can have on our lives, including the care of non-human animals. Although solid research has yet to demonstrate the link, it seems likely that children’s relationships with dogs may contribute to fostering a sense of environmental stewardship if properly nurtured.

Teaching children about their agency to affect the natural world, including through their relationships with dogs, is a critical step towards creating a sense of empowerment relative to pressing environmental issues facing humanity today.

Perhaps this ancient partnership with a non-human ally is continuing to influence and shape the course of human history as a result!

Mat Coulton


Andrew said...

Nice and positive piece. It is a shame that our prime companion animal after being with us for so many centuries is still mistreated locally and treated very badly in many parts of the world.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hels - so true ... animals can certainly help and always give us a warm welcome home. They used to bring small animals into the Nursing Centre when my mother was there - and she used to love seeing them. Cheers Hilary

Joseph said...

It must be a mutual relationship. The children exercised the kelpie puppy all the time, and in return he herded and protected them, whether they wanted to be herded or not.

Hels said...


I have seen cases of animal cruelty in the papers this week that push the limits of belief :( Sheep shipped to the Middle East without water; kangaroos and joeys killed slowly with long arrows; shooting deer for pleasure etc etc. What is the matter with this world?

Hels said...


therapy animals and dogs to lead the blind are brilliant ideas, tested over many generations. But taking small animals into care homes for the elderly is newer and just as clever. I too have seen elderly people with few language skills who nonetheless respond with pleasure to small dogs.

Hels said...


that is so true. If vigorous dogs like kelpies only got as much exercise as their adult owners gave them, they would become under-exercised and over-weight. Children are a blessing to kelpies.

tushar soni said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hels said...

tushar soni

thanks for your letter. I hope you are interested in the relationship between dogs and children, but no ads please.

grace singer said...

Dogs can be alarming, but the photos are very cute.

Hels said...


A dog brings great joy to his/her family, as long as the selection process is careful and the training classes are successfully completed. Our black labrador was a delight.