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Now that my children are a bit older (6 and 4, respectively), I’ve been toying with the idea of getting them a dog. For years, I was adamant that our family would stay a pet-free home because I was already up to my elbows in smelly diapers and messy dinners—I didn’t want to add to the chaos.

But now they’re older and more self-sufficient. I must be getting soft because now I’m considering getting them a pet. I had a slew of puppies when I was growing up, and I want my kids to feel the same joy I did when I was younger. I’ve done some research on having a pet—here are some of the benefits I’ve found:

Teaching responsibility : A lot of parents are hesitant to get a pet because they fear they will be the primary ones taking care of it. And of course, the younger your children are, the fewer responsibilities they will probably have. But even toddlers can get in on the action and help put dog food in the bowl or help brush the puppy. Modify the level of responsibility to their age and the whole family can be involved.

Keep you active: By their very nature, dogs need lots of exercise, which could be just the thing for a family that is more couch potato than athlete. You’ll have a built-in excuse to go on lots of family walks during the warmer months. Find a local dog park and run and play right alongside your pet!

Beat the sniffles: Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets in the house are less likely to develop asthma, eczema, and allergies. Keep that in mind if you’re worried about possible allergies or environmental impact on your home.

Decrease stress – You might not be expecting this one, but a 2002 study found that when performing a stressful task, people experienced less stress when their pets were there—even less than when a spouse, family member or close friend was nearby. Pet owners also tend to have lower blood pressure than those who don’t.

Aid in development: Small children can learn nurturing skills from taking care of a pet. They also tend to have higher self-esteem and show more impulse control. Younger children who are learning to read or those who are reluctant readers may feel more comfortable reading to a pet than to a parent or a sibling.

Tara Pringle Jefferson is the founder of and the author of Make It Happen: The Young Mommy Guide To Creating The Career You Crave. Follow her on Twitter or check out her blog for her insights on what it means to be a mom, wife, student, writer, and about three other labels she’s too tired to remember.

Kids and Pets: 5 Benefits of Having A Dog

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