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April 25, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Oh, The Love of a Dog!

New studies reveal that a furry pal's unconditional love provides ongoing emotional benefits for kids of all ages.

Loyalty. Companionship. Unconditional love. All qualities we seek from others, yet rarely find rolled into one, uncomplicated soul. Except that of the dog. Our human love affair with domestic canines dates back thousands of years. Dogs have worked for us, played with us, curled up by the fire with us, and truth be told, many people express the way they feel about their dog on their bumper stickers: “My dog makes me happy; you not so much.” Or, “Who rescued who?”   
    While cats run a close second to dogs as the favorite household pet and are in no way being demoted here, the dog’s status as number one has something to do with how intently they pursue us, socialize with us and rely upon us for affection and presence. In this highly unusual pandemic era, many of us need pursuing, and not just those of us who are “dog people,” but kids who may be experiencing stress, anxiety and quite possibly too much isolation with all of the social distancing going on. Science now backs this up.
    According to a recent study from Pediatric Research, the official publication of the American Pediatric Society and the European Society for Pediatric Research, kids with dogs are about 30 percent less likely to have conduct problems, 40 percent less likely to have difficulty relating to peers and 34 percent more likely to show pro-social behavior compared to kids without dogs. The study that collected data from 1,646 parents of 3- to 5-year-olds also highlighted that the social-emotional benefits of owning a dog begin early in childhood.
    There’s no question for dog lovers that when times are tough, their pet provides an enormous amount of emotional support to them. The use of Emotional Support Animals (ESA) have exploded in recent years for people with extreme anxiety and more, so if you’re at all concerned about a kid’s anxiousness or stress, you can bet that a pet of some kind — but most specifically a dog — can help smooth out the ups and downs in a day.
    According to animal therapy program professionals, simply petting an animal promotes the release of mood-elevating hormones. While it’s been shown that teens and young adults benefit from ESAs during difficult transitions in life, the news that young children benefit from a dog beginning at an early age is new. While service gos require extensive training, emotional support animals require no training at all.

Finding Your Child a Furrever Friend
It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of a pooch warming the foot of your kid’s bed, but actually bringing a dog home is a huge responsibility. Before you begin the search for a dog, do a little due diligence to make sure it’s a good decision for your family. You can also take a dog for a “test drive,” through Nashville Humane Association’s Doggie Dates and Rovernights programs. Doggie Dates let you take a shelter dog out for a few hours to hike or just to play in your yard. Rovernights allows you to host a dog in your home overnight. This makes for a great way to learn if a dog is a good fit for your family. Learn more about this at
    So if you’re thinking, “Maybe my boy will benefit from a dog,” the answer is actually yes. It’s not cheap, the dog will become a very important part of your family and will even complicate your easy-going lifestyle, but research now shows that kids with dogs benefit emotionally, developmentally and socially.


Agape Animal Rescue
& Training Center

Eakin-Weakley Dr., Nashville
Foster-based rescue. Donate, volunteer.

Critter Cavalry
615-661-5333 or 615-943-7311
No physical facility. Rescues homeless dogs from high-kill facilities.
Foster, adopt, donate, volunteer and more.


No physical facility. Hendersonville.
615-664-2380, Ext. 52
Adopt, donate, volunteer.

Humane Society of
Sumner County

16 Volunteer Drive, Hendersonville
Rescues dogs and cats. Adopt, donate, volunteer and more.

Love at First SIGHT
4423 Murphy Road, Nashville
Healthy puppies for adoption.

Music City Animal Rescue
No physical location. Foster-based rescue.

Nashville Humane Association
213 Oceola Ave., Nashville
Shelter, adopt, foster, donate, volunteer, events, DoggieDates and Rover Nights.

New Leash on Life
507 Jim Draper Blvd., Lebanon
Shelter, adoption, donate, volunteer.

Noah’s Ark Society Rescue
No physical facility
Foster-based rescue. Volunteer and more.

Proverbs 12:10 Animal Rescue
No physical facility
Foster-based rescue. Adopt, donate, volunteer and more.

Rutherford County Pet
Adoption & Welfare services

285 John R. Rice Blvd., Murfreesboro
Shelter, adopt, donate, volunteer.

Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue
No physical facility
Foster-based rescue. Donate and more. Make inquiries on website contact form.

Williamson County
Animal Center

106 Claude Yates Drive, Franklin
Adopt, dontate, volunteer, programs and more.


About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.