Parents of preschoolers might want to think about adding a dog to the family. A new study out of Australia suggests that young kids develop better social and emotional skills if they have a dog, reports Yahoo News. The study, which drew on data from a comprehensive survey of Australian families, looked at children ages 2 to 5. Researchers found that kids whose family had a dog were 23% less likely to have trouble with social interactions and emotions than kids from dog-less households, per Medical Xpress. They also were 30% less likely to show antisocial behavior, 40% less likely to have trouble interacting with their peers, and were 34% more likely to show considerate behavior such as sharing.
"While we expected that dog ownership would provide some benefits for young children's well-being, we were surprised that the mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviors and emotions," said study author Hayley Christian of the Centre for Child Health Research at The University of Western Australia. An assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan who was not involved with the study says it's possible spending time with a dog helps a toddler learn empathy. "You have to work to read what your dog is thinking and respond to their behavior," Dr. Jenny Radesky tells CNN. "That gets kids out of their head space and more thinking about what another being is thinking." (This dog is being hailed as a hero in Tennessee.)