All the positive impacts that dogs can have on your children, according to an expert.

Dogs make people happy!

This is one of the reasons why I love dogs SO much. There is nothing better than seeing the positive impact they can have on all people; the sick, the elderly and especially on children. It warms my heart every day watching how beautifully my two children interact with our dog and how happy he makes them.

I have broken down todays post into three parts for you. Part one is the facts to prove the positive impact dogs can have on children. Part two is our story and how I see these amazing facts play out in our home. And I’ve saved the best for last, part three is your stories.

That’s right, I had some lovely people write to me with some incredible real stories where dogs have drastically changed a child’s life for the better. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

The facts

It is fact that there are SO many benefits of having a dog in your child’s life.

Dog’s help provide enjoyment and help children develop responsibilities transferable to adulthood.

This positive impact is backed by scientific data, case studies and research that validate the therapeutic effects of human-animal relationships.

These benefits can be emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual and are created when an animal’s behaviour makes us to laugh or aids us in therapy.

If appropriately trained and supervised, dogs can provide many valuable lessons and other benefits to children.


Studies have shown that children with dogs:

  • Have higher self esteem
  • Have improved social skills
  • Are more likely to be physically active, and less likely to be overweight or obese

Your child’s development can even benefit from owning a dog. Having a relationship with a dog can help develop such skills as:

  • Responsibility
  • Communication
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Socialisation
  • Empathy
  • Nurturing skills
  • A caring attitude

Dog ownership also has a beneficial effect on family harmony. Research shows that families with a dog:

  • Spend a lot more time interacting
  • Have a basis for fun activities and friendly conversation including the important topics of life

The relaxation and relief from stress provided by animal companionship also creates health benefits for parents. It’s crazy to think that dog owners, in comparison to non-dog owners can have:

  • A decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Fewer minor illnesses and complaints
  • Less visits to the doctor

Our story

I love seeing these facts play out in our own home…

Our dog, Cooper, helps to put a smile on the kids’ faces every day.

If they hurt themselves, he is there to make sure they’re okay. He’ll sometimes give them a lick where they’re sore and that usually makes them laugh or he will let them pat him, which also helps them to feel better.


Paxton was home sick the other week and feeling crappy and upset but somehow Cooper always managed to put a smile back on his face.

Harper often turns to Cooper in times of need. When she’s upset, or anxious or worried, she often will seek him out to give her a sense of comfort and calm that helps her deal with her situation.

As she can verbalise her feelings much better than Paxton, she tells me how much she relies on Cooper in times like that. It’s incredible to watch, it literally makes my heart melt.

Since the day we brought Cooper home, I have watched people look at him and just smile.

As we’re walking down the street I can’t tell you how many times people walk past and glance at him and a big grin appears on their face.

I guess he has that real happy dog smile that is just so contagious.

Late last year we took Cooper into the children’s child care centre and it was amazing to see how he instantly made everyone happy!


I’d love to do this all the time but he’s a bit too boisterous in new environments, otherwise he would have been such a great therapy dog.

Your stories

These are some incredible REAL stories to show the positive impact that dogs can have on our children.

There are so many incredible programs these days that include dogs helping children and I guess this really validates my point, of how incredible dogs truly are.

I reached out to a few groups on Facebook as I wanted to hear from parents and dog owners who had a real story where a dog has truly touched a child’s life to share with me. The number of responses I got was fantastic.

I heard stories about therapy dogs coming into hospitals like the Royal Children’s, to a story about dogs coming into schools and libraries helping children to read. I also heard a story about dogs being trained to help autistic kids and kids who suffer from anxiety. They were all so incredible but a few stories really stood out.

One lady wrote into me about an organisation that connects deaf dogs to deaf children, how special is that?! She said, “It’s beautiful seeing a deaf child sign and connect with a deaf dog. Both their faces light up knowing they’re understood.” It’s truly remarkable.

Another lady who reached out to me told me that her dog is a certified therapy dog and he helped a little boy in the psych ward who had an absolute fear of dogs. It affected him every day of his life.

He was so afraid; his whole body would tremble with fear and he would literally have to cross the road if he saw a dog. So together with her dog and the psychologist, they worked to help overcome this boy’s fear of dogs and give him his life back. She said the results were amazing and it was so special to see her dog have that impact on a child.

Image: Shutterstock.

A mum from Harper’s school wrote in to me to tell me about her nearly 3-year-old son who was petrified of dogs and most animals. Her and her husband made the big decision to get the family a puppy to try and overcome these fears, and thankfully her little boy fell absolutely in love!

This mum told me “the best part is because of Motek (the dog), he (her son) is not scared of other animals anymore. Before Motek, if I took him somewhere with a mobile petting zoo, he would refuse to enter. Now he runs in on his own and gently pats all the animals! It has completely changed our life!” I just love stories like these!

And one last one that really touched me was from a lovely mum of three named Limor.

Limor wrote: “A few years ago we wanted to get a companion dog for our son Noam who has Down syndrome... The wait list had been closed so we didn’t know what to do. We kept a look out and found Lily (from Lort Smith). She was six weeks old. Noam and my other two were so scared of dogs at the time.

"It took 24 hours for them to fall in love but for Noam it was extra amazing as his language doubled almost instantly. He was talking to Lily and to us about Lily. Now 4 years on Lily is his best friend. Sometimes she is the only way he will do things like go in the shower or go to bed, she sits near the door or goes with him up to bed. She is the most forgiving and loving dog, even when he lashes out at her for no reason she’ll go straight back to him. She has taught Noam and my other two so much. Lily now sleeps with my daughter every night who over the past few months has had anxiety going to sleep. Lily sleeps on the end of her bed and her anxiety goes away. Amazing x.”

It turns out that Lily had no formal training either. This family just got very lucky with her temperament and nature and they thank their lucky stars every day. How gorgeous is that!

I want to say a big thank you to the wonderful people who reached out to me on Facebook with your incredible stories, they all brought such a smile to my face.


I am not saying that a dog is for everyone, because they are not.

This is a very important point to note. Yes, dogs are amazing creatures, but they are definitely not for everyone.


A post shared by Mel Ritterman (@cooperandkids) on

Some people just aren’t dog people. And for some people, their home or lifestyle might not be right.

Owning a dog is big responsibility, so make sure you do your homework before getting a dog and decide if it is the right thing for you. Find the right breed for you and your family and make sure you put the time into training and socialisation.

Whilst owning a dog can be such a delightful family experience and has enormous benefits for the child and the family, as parents we also need to be mindful and spend the time educating our children on how to interact safely with dogs. Plus, it’s also important that you train your dog how to behave appropriately around children. If you have any questions on this, please get in touch.

And if you have any more amazing stories like these to share with me, I’d love to hear from you.

Mel xox

Mel Ritterman is a qualified dog trainer and mum-of-two. You can find more information about Mel on her website Cooper and Kids, or follow her on Instagram or Facebook. If you have a question for Mel about kids and dogs you’d like her to write about on Mamamia, email her at [email protected]