Does a pet influence a child?

Does a pet influence a child?

Melanie Daly, MYP Journalist

As I was walking my dog, Lucy, near the park the other day, a bunch of small children ran up, asking to pet her. Lucy is generally tame and shy, so I agreed, watching as they swarmed. Many of the kids began pulling at her ears and tail, shouting excitedly, and sticking their hands near her mouth and nose. I shooed my dog off, making some excuse, but I couldn’t help thinking that if this had been a violent or easily-aggravated dog, they could’ve gotten hurt. The thought continued until forming into one idea: Did growing up near pets and animals affect one personally, and if so, could it benefit them?

Many small children are taught to softly stroke their pets back and try to be calm near them, but perhaps parents felt the need to not enforce rules like this, if they weren’t commonly near animals. Or maybe the parents didn’t grow up with pets themselves, therefore never knowing how to properly handle one. One can view it as a huge butterfly effect, which is when one small thing, carries out a huge chain of events to grow to something big. If a child lived life without a pet, they would most likely be influenced by their parents, or feel no need to get an animal, as it’s something they never relied on. The child in this family would not have a pet, therefore not wanting or knowing how to handle one. The chain keeps going, and the chances of being harmed by an animal begin to increase. Someone could get seriously hurt, all because of small decisions.

Humans adapt and learn from their surroundings, creating an unspoken rule for everything they do, which can also be referred to as an instinct. Some instincts nearly every human has, such as checking for cars before crossing a street, while others are personal, such as knowing not to enter a certain classroom without permission first, or knowing not to drive on a certain street at a specific time due to traffic. Interaction with animals and other pieces of life should be one should be one of these instincts, especially enforced around small children.

Many people use filth as an excuse for being petless, claiming they didn’t want their child in risk of disease and illness. This used to be good reasoning, although at this point many people have proved it wrong. A study from Saint John’s Health Center, Santa Monica, California, shows that kids who had a dog during the first year of their life had a higher immune system, with 31% fewer respiratory tract infections than those without. Being near germs that early on actually helps kids build their systems up, giving the ability to fight diseases and such later on. Mentally, says Journal of Personality and Social Psychology children with a companion animal in the house also had higher self esteem, and an animal can be used as something to talk to, that will react, without being able to judge or tell anyone.

Having a pet also helps with levels of empathy and compassion. It takes a lot to be able to understand a being very different from you, but once that’s mastered, it’s easy to be able to understand people and unfamiliar situations. Children also develop responsibility skills faster if you let them help out while feeding and cleaning up after your pet.

Finally, a sense of security comes with a pet. Having a familiar fluffy friend always near makes them considered either close friend or family in a child’s mind.  Any monsters under the bed, bullies from school, or fears can’t almost never win against a pet.