child playing with a dog on a toki dog bed
child-development

5 Ways That Having a Dog Benefits Your Baby

August 29, 2022

Everyone who has ever had a dog growing up knows the joys that a family pet brought them in their childhood. Dogs are man’s best friend, and, as it turns out, they’re a child’s best friend, too. Studies have found that young children who share a home with a dog have a number of advantages over children in pet-free homes. Life with both a baby and a fur baby might seem chaotic at times (because, let’s face it, both dogs and kids get into some serious mischief), but the next time you have to do some major deep breathing because your dog has just tracked in dirt all over the freshly-mopped floor, just remember—it’s actually good for your baby! Everything about your furry family member, from the dirt on their paws to their slobbery kisses, does wonders for your little one’s brain and body. Here are some of the ways that having a dog benefits your baby:

1. It makes them healthier

Research has found that babies in homes with dogs have fewer colds, fewer infections, and need fewer antibiotics in their first year of life than other babies. Although this same effect was found in babies raised in homes with cats, the strongest effect was seen in homes with dogs. Studies have proven that living with a dog leads to a child developing a more robust immune system, but the exact reason for this isn’t clear. It could have something to do with the microbiome hypothesis, which theorizes that early exposure to wide varieties of microbes lets them mix with microbes in the gut, which helps keep the immune system from reacting against things it shouldn’t and causing autoimmune diseases or allergies. Dogs spend time outdoors and carry healthy bacteria on their bodies, so it’s thought that continued contact through cuddles and kisses could lead to bacteria transfer, which then boosts a child’s immune system. However, while having a dog around your baby can help protect them against respiratory infections, this exposure needs to happen very early in life, not after a child has already developed asthma or another condition. 

2. It helps them become more compassionate

A child who has grown up helping care for another life, like a dependent animal, is more likely to develop into a compassionate individual. When there is a pet in the house, even very young children can contribute to feeding and caring for the animal. Babies have to be taught at a very early age to be gentle with a pet. While their instincts may be to grab a tail or ear (ouch!), they are quickly corrected to stroke nicely. Studies have shown that kids with pets tend to have more emotional intelligence (EQ), which is actually linked to more early academic success than the traditional measure of intelligence (IQ). It might be stressful constantly having to pry your dog’s fur or tail out of little hands, but these are all teaching moments that help your little one learn how to treat another being with compassion and empathy.

child playing with dog on a toki dog bed

3. It makes them happier

This one is a no-brainer! Dog owners know that the #1 cure for a stressful day is getting cuddles and kisses from your favorite furry friend. There’s something about their soft fur, happy face, and excited, wagging tail that heals the heart. Dogs make us really happy, and kids are no exception. Studies have found that kids who have dogs have a happier outlook on life and have less stress and anxiety than kids without dogs. It’s no secret that dogs are a huge source of comfort—it’s the reason that therapy dogs exist! Even the simple act of petting a dog for ten minutes can significantly decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels and boost oxytocin (love hormone) levels. A dog’s companionship offers coping skills for children, helping them with loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Studies have shown that children turn to their pets for comfort, reassurance, and emotional support when feeling strong emotions. A dog is so much more than just a pet—they’re a friend, a family member, a confidant, a companion, and a therapist. Their presence alone is inexplicably comforting, and they’re a great emotional aide to all children. 

4. It boosts their cognitive skills

Unsurprisingly, pet ownership boosts cognitive development in your child. Researchers found that babies living with a pet were better at recognizing animal faces by the time they were 10 months old than babies who did not live with a pet. Having a dog boosts cognitive skills because children talk to them, whether they’re just babbling, giving praise, or issuing commands. Dogs offer a stimulating experience and opportunities for language development. In one study, researchers found that children aged 2-5 with a family dog were more active, spent less time on screens, and slept more on average, than those without one.

5. It teaches them responsibility

Even babies can start contributing to the care of a family dog as early as allowed. A 1 year old might not be able to take the dog for a walk, but they help fill their food bowl with kibble or help pour water (messily) into their water bowl. As your little one grows, their duties can shift and they can take on larger responsibilities. The daily act of helping care for a dependent animal teaches them responsibility at a young age, which also builds self-esteem. Assigning daily tasks to a young child gives them a sense of importance and accomplishment, which helps them feel independent and competent. 

mom and child petting a dog on a toki dog bed

The love that a family dog brings into a home is so great that it can’t be measured. They’re an important part of the family, and they should be treated as such. That’s why we created a dog bed from the same trusted materials as our play mats. Because our materials are globally certified clean and responsibly made, you don’t have to worry if your baby is a fan of laying in the dog bed (everything is non-toxic and perfectly safe!). Your pup deserves a bed that’s as thoughtfully made as your own—and that’s where Toki’s dog bed comes in. To learn more, you can read our blog post here on exactly why you should pamper your pup with a Toki dog bed.

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5 Ways That Having a Dog Benefits Your Baby

About the Author: Alice

Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.

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