» Dog Therapy: Why kids and pets belong together

It’s New Year’s Eve morning and I’m happily snuggled on the couch with four kids and two dogs. Coffee has been poured, daddy is catching up on sleep and my computer is in hand. Saturday mornings are often blogging mornings for me… but this morning I asked the kids to help me out, to choose today’s topic, and they immediately suggested that we write about the newest member of our family. A 50-pound lab mix from Lifehouse Pet Rescue.

Wrigley (you’re welcome Cub’s fans) is approximately 11 months old and all puppy. He needs a lot of attention, training and rope-pulling time. Our 6-pound toy poodle is quite disgruntled by his presence and his persistent sniffing of said poodle’s bottom. They are truly a comical pair. It’s quite the interesting dynamic to watch the 6 pound dog display shows of dominance to the ever-growing giant lab. We gifted Wrigley with a large dog bed and Hiro immediately staked his claim. Wrigley won’t dare lay on the bed for fear of little poodle teeth, so you’ll find Hiro relaxing in comfort on his king sized dog bed.

The question I’ve gotten a lot, including from my husband, is why I would want to add a second dog to our bustling mix of four young kids and one temperamental poodle. Well friends, I’ve made you a list of why kids and dogs just belong together.

  1. Therapy: My children benefit from the therapeutic benefits of a large, warm dog. Time with Wrigley provides sensory input! Wrigley loves to be leaned on, snuggled, hugged and napped on. He loves to pull on ropes with the kids. This falls into the category of  proprioceptive input and aids in body awareness. Not only is it comforting and fun for them to tug and pull with the dog it also provides opportunities to work in sensory input.
  2. Reading practice: The kids can read to Wrigley, while he keeps them warm with his lap dog tendencies, without fear of rejection or correction. He just listens and enjoys the togetherness and in turn they practice fluency.
  3. Nurture: While they are not completely responsible for taking care of Wrigley and Hiro they do help. They love to feed the dogs, take them to the dog park, teach them simple tricks and give them exercise. I find them speaking to the dogs in the high-pitched tone one would use with a baby. They worry about them and watch out for them. As young children they are given the opportunity to love and care for creatures that depend on them. It’s empowering and character-building.
  4. Perseverance: Training dogs to be well-behaved family members is quite a task. It requires a large amount of consistency and perseverance. We incorporate the kids as we work to help young Wrigley greet new people without jumping, sit before a treat, lay down on command, walk nicely on a leash and much more. They are learning foundational goal-setting skills as they work toward a goal with Wrigley’s training.
  5. Confidence: As the kids interact with the dogs, teaching them and nurturing them, they build confidence in their ability to accomplish tasks and create meaningful experiences. They also experience unconditional love and acceptance from their doggy pals, something that is a wonderful support as they navigate relationships with peers. Their dogs will always be waiting for them after a difficult day.

When I look at my home and see the young kids and fur babies running around I know that the bit of extra work is worth it to give them all an opportunity to grow. I grew up with dogs in the house and it was a positive experience that I knew I wanted to share with my children as well. My husband on the other hand is new to the dog-life but has embraced it and can often be found relaxing in the evening with at least one pup in his lap. If you are considering adding a furry friend to your family look into local rescues and foster-based groups. Our Wrigley was rescued and then fostered before he came to us. He was already potty-trained and knew the basics of living in a home. This was a huge help for us and we were able to start on more advance training and social skills. For our family, the benefits of having dogs really outweighs any additional work we put in. But always consider how much you are willing to do before bringing pets into the home.



About the author


Erica is an advocate for simplicity, family time, making a cozy home and loving others well. She is the community coordinator for One Orphan, the orphan care ministry of America World Adoption Association. Erica and Calvin have four young children; Elliott, Charlotte, Lola and Liam. They currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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