Kids and their dogs

Noah, with one of the pet bull-mastiffs. Photo: Miriam O’Callaghan

Dogs NSW is reminding dog owners of National Kids and Pets Day on 26 April to celebrate the special bond shared between children and their dogs, and remind parents about the importance of safety where dogs and children are concerned.

“Dogs are an important part of the family, and it’s important for kids and dogs to learn to be good companions to each other,” said Dogs NSW president Lyn Brown.

Research shows that children and adolescents who grow up with a pet benefit in terms of their social and emotional development. They have higher self-esteem, better social skills and experience less loneliness. There are also educational benefits, for example, reading to dogs has been shown to boost children’s reading skills.

As a pet educator with the NSW Government’s Responsible Pet Ownership Education Program, Dogs NSW member Lesley Shirley has seen the positive impact of dogs on child development in schools.

“Dogs help support healthy child development. Their non-judgemental, unconditional love and affection can also be very therapeutic for a young person with special needs, like autism,” Shirely said.

Having dogs as pets at home has an equally positive impact. Dogs NSW member, Miriam O’Callaghan, breeds bull-mastiffs and sees the benefits being around the family’s dogs has on her teenage son, Noah, who has Down syndrome.

“Noah spent many hours watching, cuddling and playing with the dogs, which have taught him how different the animal and human worlds are … subtle learning skills, but huge meaning and effect behind those skills,” O’Callaghan said.

“Noah also has a strong affinity with young puppies and helps rear the babies whenever a litter is born.”

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