Family Pets: The Ultimate Immune System-Boosters for Children?

Publication Date: 
Monday, August 11, 2014 - 12:15

Guest blog by ASPCA Volunteer Manager Julie Sonenberg, a mom of one daughter and two dogs in New York City.

I’ve seen multiple studies that suggest having a dog in the home can decrease your child's chances of developing allergies later in life and can boost your child's immune system as they receive exposure to dirt and germs brought in from outdoors. So far, my 20-month-old daughter has not developed any allergies, which was (irrationally) my worst fear when I was pregnant. I can also attest that she has been exposed to a LOT of germs.

We have two shedding dogs, and you never realize just how much fur is in your home until you have a crawling child. Our crawling daughter’s pants used to become covered in fur. Once she even picked up a ball of fur from the floor and put it in her mouth. Luckily, she learned her lesson and only did that once. There's fur in her toy boxes, fur in her crib, fur in her potty and she's probably consumed her fair share of fur as well (fur ball eating not withstanding). I was so excited when she learned to walk.

When we first started feeding her solid foods in the high chair, our dogs quickly learned that getting less attention from us while getting poked by her was all worth it because of what transpired in the process—they quickly snatched up food items our daughter dropped. The dogs worshipped the chair—one dog would even wait under it when she wasn’t in it (just in case). We actually had to reduce our dogs’ food portions because of all the extra food our daughter tossed on the floor.

We’ve worked on getting her to hand the food to mommy or daddy if she doesn’t want it, or leave it on her plate instead of throwing it on the ground. Miraculously, when we ate in a different spot with no dogs present, a much smaller portion of food landed on the floor.

The first time she had one dog lick the food off her hand while she ate, I jumped up and got a baby wipe to wash off her hand before she continued eating. Now, I occasionally ask, “Do you want Dexter to clean your hand?” Judge me all you want—my daughter is going to have a dynamite immune system, as well as a healthy love for animals.    

Little girl standing next to two dogs and toy stroller

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