Are Dogs Good for Kids?

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
A puppy with a boy

Yes, dogs are good for kids. Similar to the relationship between cats and kids, a canine companion can have a positive impact on children that lasts for years.  

Many children love the idea of having a furry playmate. While this is a great perk of dog ownership, there are other benefits that are perhaps less obvious.    

Dogs affect kids in numerous ways. Some children improve their social skills by caring for their pet, while others may develop a sense of responsibility from walking and feeding them dog food every day.  

So if you’re wondering, “Are dogs good for kids?”, read on to learn more about the benefits of having a pet canine.   

Why Are Dogs Good for Kids?

Often, when people adopt a dog, they become part of their family. Providing care, playing and sharing experiences helps form strong bonds between people and their pets.  

For kids, this bond happens at a formative time. They’re undergoing emotional development and building important social skills. Growing up with a pet canine has been shown to assist in this kind of growth. 

Here are some important benefits of having a dog for kids.   


Dogs can be excellent companions for kids. They are fun to play games with and may even be willing sidekicks in an imaginary adventure.  

Dogs can also be a calming, nonjudgemental presence. When kids are met with the challenges of childhood, having an attentive, affectionate pet to turn to may be a source of comfort.   

Animals such as dogs can also be companions for autistic children. 

Decreased Anxiety

If you’re wondering, “Is having a dog good for a child?” because you’re concerned about their mental health, there is some good news. Research shows having a pet dog at home is associated with less anxiety among kids. 

Kids in the study aged seven to eight even ranked pets higher than humans as confidants and providers of comfort.  


In addition to dogs’ ability to reduce stress in kids, they can also make children happy. Part of the explanation is simple: Playing with pets is fun. There are scientific reasons as well, however.  

According to research, playing with or cuddling dogs can release the bonding hormone, oxytocin in humans, which is associated with feelings of socialization and stress relief. Additionally, cortisol, a stress hormone, decreases.  

This might explain why emotional support dogs can be helpful to kids and adults.  

Improved Self-Esteem

Caring for a dog can boost a child’s self-esteem. By taking responsibility for tasks like feeding and walking a pet, kids (especially pre-adolescents) may build a sense of worth.  

Greater Empathy

As companion animals, dogs can help kids understand non-verbal communication. This may lead to heightened emotional intelligence, according to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute.  

Research also shows that kids who grow up with dogs become more empathetic adults.  

Cognitive Development

Companion animals like dogs may be able to help kids learn.  

Very young children develop language skills by praising, commanding or talking to canines. The presence of a dog during tests of things like memory and categorization has also shown positive effects, according to the National Library of Medicine

Additionally, some kids who read to dogs are able to improve their literacy skills.   

Improved Health

Dogs can be great motivators for kids to participate in physical activity. Whether it’s a daily walk, games, runs or hikes they provide an outlet for exercise.  

There’s also evidence that kids who grow up in the presence of dogs get sick less often during the first year of life.  

Personal Responsibility 

For older kids in particular, caring for a dog is a chance to practice responsibility. It’s important for parents to remember that when children are developing these skills, they check in regularly to be sure the kids are meeting their pets’ needs.  

From walking to grooming, animals have needs that must be met. Cleaning up after your pet—whether it’s vacuuming hair off the couch or picking up messes in the yard—also has to be done to keep your home tidy. 

How to Make Sure Dogs Are Good for Kids

If you’re considering getting a dog for your family, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Ask the shelter, rescue or breeder about the dog’s temperament. Make sure they don’t have aggression towards children.
  • Ensure your kids are ready for and want a dog. Set expectations so they understand their roles and responsibilities with the pet.
  • Teach your kids to care for dogs by modeling good pet-owner behavior.         

If you’re still wondering, “Are dogs for kids?”, you can also talk to a veterinarian for guidance. They may be able to make recommendations based on your specific situation.  

Want more tips on canine behavior and other dog topics? Visit our Pet Expertise page for insight from our experts.  

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