Life with Dogs

By William McDowell


   Many parents are opposed to getting a dog for their family for various reasons, such as not wanting to spend time taking care of the dog. However, the good far outweighs the bad because dogs help children relieve stress and learn empathy.

   In my experience, dogs help relieve stress that adolescents or children may be having about school or relationships. On nights that I have a lot of homework or I am upset, I have found that petting my dog for a few minutes helps to calm me down. It takes my mind off of whatever is causing me stress, and I instead focus on him. This could be a strategy that other students use because it is far easier to do work when you are not thinking about how much you have to do. 

   “Interactions with companion animals increase neurochemicals associated with relaxation,” said Froma Walsh, the co-director and co-founder of the Chicago Center for Family Health. In other words, there is scientific proof that petting or playing with a pet helps people relax, meaning that they could be beneficial to a student’s life during stressful times.

   In addition, dogs, as well as other pets, teach children empathy. “It is easier to teach children to be empathic with an animal than with a human because an animal is straight-forward in expressing feelings and behavior,” Walsh said. 

   Animals have no reason to hold back feelings from people; when children are exposed to other beings with emotions, they learn how their actions make others feel. Humans, on the other hand, often show less emotion, especially as kids get older. Because of this, animals are much more useful than humans in teaching children about empathy and respect for others.

   Although some families may not be able to afford taking care of a dog, dogs provide many major mental benefits for adolescents that help them relax and empathize.

   “The acquisition of a pet [is] one of the ways in which human sanity is preserved,” child psychologist Boris Levinson said. I, as well as other dog owners, can relate to this: our dogs help us relax and calm down so we can make good decisions for the future, keeping us sane and making us better people.