Will Getting A Dog Help My Child’s Behavior? – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
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People get dogs for a variety of reasons: companionship, fun, love of animals, love of dogs, and assistance for certain tasks. But, what about getting a dog in order to help with a child’s behavior? Would that be a good idea?

Service Dogs

I have heard of dogs being helpful in stimulating behavior in autistic children. I know dogs are used as therapy dogs for adults and children for a variety of purposes: seizure alert dogs; hearing ear dogs – sound alert dogs; guide dogs for the blind; help with a variety of disabilities; and even help with certain phobias, such as agoraphobia. Service dogs are needed, and when the situation fits, it is a good idea to use a dog.

Home Environment

But, what if you are getting a dog for another purpose, such as helping with your child’s behavior?

Research shows that there are generally two reasons why a child has behavioral problems. The first is the nature and quality of the child’s family environment. This primarily involves the child’s relationship with the parents. The second is the temperament and health of the child.

Whether to get a dog in either of these circumstances is more complicated than just getting a dog to solve the problem. Dogs are just dogs, and not able to be responsible for intervening and solving relational problems between individuals, regardless of their age, or solving personal issues a person, such as a child, might be challenged with.

I believe before a parent embarks upon getting a dog to solve family or individual issues, it is time to bring in a professional counselor to work with the family. If the family is advised to get a dog, then you would be referred to a service dog provider who would provide a specially selected and trained dog for your child.

Let’s Say It’s Not That Serious

Let’s say there is not really something serious going on in the home, and you are just looking for a new way of engaging your child into a fun and healthy hobby, such as owning a dog? I think that is perfectly acceptable… provided, the parent is fully prepared to supervise both the dog and child, and provide professional training for both of them. Ultimately, the dog is going to be the parent’s dog, since the dog is going to be home with the parents more hours than it will be with the child during waking hours. Parents and kids need to be involved together in the establishment of such a hobby. And the parents need to teach, and demonstrate, that once a commitment is made to own a dog, even if it is hard and time consuming, that it is seen through all the way through the life of the dog. No quitting. No shortcuts. Good dog ownership requires the development of good habits and good character, all things that kids need to learn.

But, consider, there are other alternatives for hobbies other than getting a dog. For example, maybe it would be better for the child to enroll in music classes, sports, Boy / Girl Scouts, ballet, art classes, or community service. Dogs aren’t for everyone, or every family. And not all dogs are good with kids, and not all kids are good with dogs.

There is a lot to consider, and before you get a dog for a child, who might in the end decide to neglect the dog or even hurt the dog. I would be inclined to discourage a parent from getting a dog purely in the hopes that getting a dog would somehow improve a child’s behavior and emotional state.