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Reducing kids anxiety with a man’s best friend.

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

a kid hugging his dog

As my 8 year old child was collecting eggs from our chook pen, suddenly, the rooster comes from behind her and stabs her lower back with his pointy beak. All I could hear was a call for help. As any mother would do, I ran to console her and investigated how bad the injury was. To my surprise, our pet dog Sherman had arrived first at the scene and shoo the rooster away. It’s that moment that you realize how priceless your dog is or a reminder to what you already know. She fearlessly recounted the whole episode with such energy and calmness and it seemed like she’d never been injured. It was then when I realized the positive effect it created in her having Sherman by her side. She spoke wonders of Sherman because he had gone through the trouble of digging under the fence just to get into our enclosed chook pen to save her. Close your eyes tightly and imagine the following. You find a child breathing heavily as you look deeply into the top half of the body. Their chest rises and falls and the breathing is audible. The face looks tensed. Irritable at times and restless. Why the attitude? You ask. Give me a smile. Inattentive and poor focus. Sad look on the face just tells you something is just not right!

Let me share a little bit of history with you. Kids can suffer from mental illness just like adults do. Anxiety is one of them and it is quite a significant public health problem in some countries such as Australia and USA. Scary enough this condition begins in childhood. The worrying part of all this, anxiety can predispose a child to other health problems, such as heart issues, ideas of suicide, high blood pressure and much more. Who would of thought this terrible condition would affect our young ones?

Well it does! A research published in 2015 went deeper into this issue to find solutions. It discovered that having a pet dog in your home is associated with a reduced probability of anxiety in kids. What a breakthrough! Six hundred and forty three children from the age of four to ten took part in this research. Your dog could reduce your child’s, your sibling’s child or your friends child’s anxiety especially social and separation anxiety. “Promoting children’s behavioral and emotional competence is an effective strategy to prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders during adulthood.” Adding on to this, the US Public Health Service currently promotes pet dogs for improving adult mental health.

As I hold the newborn puppy close to my face I can feel their soft coat warming my cheek and realize the sudden involuntary tender smile forming on my face.

I feel a sense of love. Such joy I feel!

Alejandra Lopez

B.N. Western Sydney University, MA Management (Nurs) Newcastle University.



Gadomski et. al. (2015), Pet Dogs and Children's Health: Opportunities for Chronic Disease Prevention? Preventing Chronic Disease, 12. doi:10.5888/pcd12.150204

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