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Dogs – Friends with benefits

Dogs – Friends with benefits
Ella Tan
  • On September 16, 2015


If you’re thinking of buying/adopting a dog because your child wants one, my advice is to think it through – over the next few years. A dog is not a plush toy. Choosing a puppy based on its cuteness is sheer folly. And kids tire of acquisitions, so are the parents prepared for all the not-fun work required?

Dogs soon outgrow the cute stage and they chew everything they can get their paws on. There’s the hair shedding, sometimes skin and ear problems. And of course, barking, peeing and pooing. Plus, you need to spend time on vet visits, exercising, grooming and playing with your dog. Make it easy on yourself. Buy your child something that runs on batteries and that has no feelings.

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Dogs love you so much that it hurts. I hate to hear of people giving away their dog because they’ve lost interest, can’t cope with the attention it needs, or find it a chore to clean up after it. I can understand if one develops a life-threatening allergy or moves into no-pets-allowed housing, but even then… To me, it’s like kicking your grandma out of the house because she’s incontinent.

The other common reason for rehoming a dog (or cat) is impending parenthood. The in-laws say animals are dirty, the baby will get asthma, etc, so the pet is carted off like so much rubbish. Those of us who’ve had children and pets will tell you that animals and children complete a home.

Growing up with pets strengthens a child’s immune system, the very opposite of what the ignorant believe. If you really-really are ready for a hairy, slobbery addition to the family, adopt instead of patronising a puppy mill. And teach your child not to hurt the dog. See how you’d like it if someone pulls your hair or jumps on you.

Image: My son (now an adult) when he was 4 with Dottie, my best dog ever

Doug & Dottie Improved

One of the main benefits of canine companionship is unconditional love. For a child, it’s having a BFF who doesn’t judge or belittle, who is never too tired to play, and who will polish off leftover food. Here are four facts out of a BabaMail list of 12 – with asides from me.

Babies who live with dogs are sick less

A recent study at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland shows that babies who lived with dogs during the first year of their life were less likely to have respiratory illness, than their non-dog-owning counterparts. Many consider this fact to be a result of dogs causing more exposure to a mild amount of germs, increasing the abilities of the babies’ immune systems to prevent sickness as they grow up. (True in my experience)

Dogs help young readers gain confidence

Children who are just learning to read often get self-conscious about reading aloud around other people. By having a dog around, they don’t have any of those anxiety issues as they are actually “reading for the dog”. Since dogs will be happy just to be around the child, the resulting feeling of confidence will do wonders for their reading ability. (Not true as my son only got interested in reading when he needed to decipher Lego instructions. But he did hold reading classes for the cats!)


What does this have to do with our story? Err… But it’s so cute, right?

woof reading

Kids with dogs have fewer cases of allergies and asthma

Scientists have found that kids who grow up around dogs are 50% less likely to develop allergies and asthma than those who grow up without a dog. This is again attributed to the fact that a child growing up around a dog will have a much sturdier immune system. (In P1 my son noted that every other classmate had an inhaler, and they didn’t have pets. My son is not asthmatic despite living with dogs, cats, bunnies and hamsters. But he has sinusitis like many Singaporeans.)


woof girls & dog


Dog owners have healthier hearts

Dog ownership has been linked to increased cardiovascular health. It might be because being around a dog can lower your stress, your blood pressure and your heart rate. (This is logical but you will be stressed when your dog is sick, has allergies, or dies. However, the companionship and entertainment dogs provide and the exercise you get from walking them more than makes up for the sad bits.)


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