This is a question our fostering advisors love to answer! Whilst it can depend on the breed of dog, we know from years of experience, the positive effect dogs can have on children’s lives. Many of our foster carers own dogs, large and small!
The ability of dogs to form unconditional, loving and trusting relationships with humans is well known, as is their ability to become working dogs. From rounding up sheep, to detecting cancers Can dogs detect cancer?, they can also be beneficial for children who have experienced trauma (Dogs and Trauma).
That is a bold claim but exactly how does a dog (or other pet animal) help? It all comes down to a happiness chemical called oxytocin. Humans release oxytocin when they are in romantic love and it is also present in mother / baby bonding. Mothers who gaze at their babies have higher levels of oxytocin.
What is most interesting is that dogs also release oxytocin when they look longingly at their family members (usually hoping for a bone!). What has also been studied is that whilst the dog looks longingly at you, oxytocin is also released in the recipient – actually making you feel happier and more content! For more information on the study visit Oxytocin and dogs.
So whether your dog is large or small we are confident that for most children the effect of developing a relationship with a dog has many benefits. Children often confide in their pets, knowing they will always listen, not give advice and always be there for them!