Child-Dog Interactions: Effects on Wellbeing

Childhood and adolescence, as well as the relationships we form during these stages, greatly influence our personal well-being. One significant relationship that has existed for thousands of years is the bond between humans and dogs.
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Dog ownership is common worldwide, especially in households with children. This has led to an increase in research on our interactions with dogs and the impact on child-dog interactions.

To understand how child-dog interactions affect the physical, mental, and social well-being of both species, we reviewed the SCOPUS database. We examined documents published between January 1980 and April 2022. After applying inclusion criteria, removing duplicates, and reviewing references, we analyzed a total of 393 documents, with 88% being scientific articles.

Our review revealed various types of child-dog interactions, ranging from neutral activities (e.g., sharing a space) to positive interactions (e.g., petting) and negative interactions (e.g., biting). We found evidence that interacting with dogs during childhood has numerous benefits, including increased physical activity, reduced stress, and the development of empathy. However, we also identified some negative outcomes for both humans and dogs.

Children are more susceptible to dog bites and dog-related illnesses, which can result in injuries, illness, fear of dogs, and even death. It's also important to consider the emotional impact of losing a beloved dog. Engaging children in dog care activities, such as feeding or walking, provides opportunities for dogs to exercise and socialize. However, a lack of physical activity can contribute to obesity in both dogs and children. Dogs may also experience higher levels of stress when around children.

Furthermore, it is necessary to explore the welfare of assistance, therapy, and free-roaming dogs that interact with children. While the benefits of child-dog interactions seem to outweigh the risks for children, we need more research to understand both the positive and negative effects on both species. Longitudinal studies and cross-cultural research are recommended to gain a better understanding of the impact of child-dog interactions.

This review is valuable for various individuals, including pediatricians, veterinarians, and current or future dog owners seeking to expand their knowledge. It also serves as a foundation for future research on dogs and human-animal interactions.

Read the full study here:

© Claire S. E. Giraudet, Kai Liu, Alan G. McElligott, and Mia Cobb