Parenting: Loving the family dog

December 21, 2010

During our Christmas shopping excursions, Nicholas made a list of all the people he wanted to buy gifts for, and at the end of the list were the names of our two dogs: Max and Corey.

Whether it's a raw-hide bone or a squeaky toy, there was no way he was going to exclude his two four-legged buddies from having something under the tree for Christmas.

Experts say how your youngster treats the family pet can go a long way towards developing compassion and care-giving skills. In fact, there have been quite a few studies showing that children can and do learn how to nurture when there are pets in the family.

One bit of research conducted by the ASPCA recently indicated that as kids grow older, they spend less time with their families - especially during the teen years. But interesting enough, the time spent with the family pet actually increases as a child ages.

From my experiences alone, I'm convinced that youngsters who grow up with a family dog are more compassionate and show more empathy. As one family therapist puts it: "By understanding a dog's desire for attention and other needs, children grow into caring adults capable of understanding others' feelings more intuitively".

In other words, having a pet at home can make us all better people... especially our kids.

Now if I can only get Nicholas to help walk them every once and a while.

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