Want To Reduce Childhood Anxiety? Get a Dog


A recent study has found that children who have regular interactions with the family dog have a lower risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, pet dander allergies or obesity later in life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study, which examined 643 children between the ages of 4 and 10. Here’s a close look at why having a pet dog may improve your child’s overall quality of life.

Pet Ownership and Increased Sociability

Using a test called the Screen for Child Anxiety and Related Disorders, researchers found that 21 percent of the children that lived without a dog in the home had significant potential for being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. They also found that only 12 percent of their subjects with dogs in the home had a high risk factor for developing anxiety. That finding led researchers to believe that the presence of a pet dog can have a big impact on a child’s emotional well-being and sociability.

For example, over the course of a walk, a child and parent will likely strike up conversations with other local pet lovers. Also, the constant companionship of a pet dog has the effect of easing childhood separation anxiety. And, the act of making physical contact with a loved one, including four legged loved ones, has been proven to trigger the release of the oxytocin hormone, which has a calming effect on the body.

Pet Dogs and Allergies 

The benefits of having a pet dog are not just psychological. A study conducted by the University of Cincinnati found that having a dog in the home early in life allows children to build up a tolerance to pet dander. Similar to the way some allergists are now treating patients who have severe peanut allergies by exposing a subject to minute amounts of the substance they are allergic to, you can slowly build up their physical tolerance for that to your allergen. Oddly enough, having a cat the home can actually increase a child’s risk factor of developing certain allergies.

Dogs and Obesity 

Researchers involved with the CDC study also noted that having a dog may help children avoid contracting obesity later in life. In childhood, we form the behavior patterns that will inform the rest of our lives. If you will spend lots of time on sedentary activities like playing video games and watching TV as a kid, there’s a strong likelihood will carry those habits into adulthood. If you spend lots of time outdoors walking and playing with a dog, there’s a good chance you’ll bring those active lifestyle habits with you into adulthood. Since obesity is known to be a gateway to such serious illnesses as hypertension, type II diabetes and depression, surprising your son or daughter with a golden retriever for the next birthday instead of an Xbox is worth considering.