Are children and dogs best friends?

A recent study tries to answer this question

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Are children and dogs best friends?

Are children and dogs best friends? A sudy entitled: Are children and dogs best friends? A scoping review to explore the positive and negative effects of child-dog interactions, published in the PeerJ magazine, tries to answer this question.

The researchers told: "Personal wellbeing is greatly influenced by our childhood and adolescence, and the relationships formed during those phases of our development. The human-dog bond represents a significant relationship that started thousands of years ago.

There is a higher prevalence of dog ownership around the world, especially in households including children.This has resulted in a growing number of researchers studying our interactions with dogs and an expanding evidence base from the exploration of child-dog interactions.We review the potential effects of child-dog interactions on the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of both species.

A search of the SCOPUS database identified documents published between January 1980 and April 2022. Filtering for key inclusion criteria, duplicate removals, and inspecting the references of these documents for additional sources, we reviewed a total of 393 documents, 88% of which were scientific articles.We were able to define the number s ways in which children and dogs interact, be it neutral, positive, or negative.

Then, we found evidence for an association between childhood interaction with dogs and an array of benefits such as increased physical activities, a reduction of stress, and the development of empathy. Nonetheless, several detrimental outcomes have also been identified for both humans and dogs.

Children are the most at-risk population regarding dog bites and dog-borne zoonoses, which may lead to injuries/illness, a subsequent fear of dogs, or even death. Moreover, pet bereavement is generally inevitable when living with a canine companion and should not be trivialized.

With a canine focus, children sometimes take part in caretaking behaviors toward them, such as feeding or going for walks. These represent opportunities for dogs to relieve themselves outside, but also to exercise and socialize.

By contrast, a lack of physical activity can lead to the onset of obesity in both dogs and children. Dogs may present greater levels of stress when in the presence of children. Finally, the welfare of assistance, therapy, and free-roaming dogs who may interact with children remains underexplored.

Overall, it appears that the benefits of child-dog interactions outweigh the risks for children but not for dogs; determination of the effects on both species, positive as well as negative, still requires further development.

We call for longitudinal studies and cross-cultural research in the future to better understand the impact of child-dog interactions. Our review is important for people in and outside of the scientific community, to pediatricians, veterinarians, and current or future dog owners seeking to extend their knowledge, and to inform future research of scientists studying dogs and human-animal interactions."