If you follow us on social media, you’ll know we love dogs almost as much as our teens. And so when someone recently recommended we read this article by Lisa Damour on what benefits dogs provide to teenagers, it got us thinking about just why pets are so brilliant for teens.
We asked some of our teen panel about their experiences with dogs and with other pets. We were fascinated to see how they instinctively knew what the experts confirm. Here’s what they had to say…
Why pets are so brilliant for teens
Animals don’t judge
Teens generally experience a whole heap of judgment. “Even adults who feel neutral or positive about young people often engage them with the aim of cultivating their growth in one way or another.” Lisa Damour
The teens we spoke to totally agreed:
“It always feels like my dog is not only by my side but on my side.”
An ever-ready source of cuddles
Touch is so important in keeping us happy and reducing stress. For some teens though, it becomes too embarrassing or difficult to hug parents or friends. They can live in a world where physical contact is minimal. Cuddling a pet can fill this gap, especially as we know from research that stroking animals is so beneficial to us.
Pets also provide entertainment and an important link to life offline:
“They’re just fun and always give you something to do instead of going on your phone.”
An emotional safe space
“Most adolescents yearn for emotional intimacy, but are often understandably worried that their attempts to seek it will be ignored, misunderstood or rebuffed. According to Dr. Anne Downes, a veterinarian in Westport, Conn., animals give adolescents a way to be “caring and loving without the fear of a complicated or hurtful reaction.” Lisa Damour
This is exactly what we heard again and again from the young people we asked:
“My dog provides my safe place even when life is unpredictable.”
“They’re your best friends and show you unconditional love, they’re always there for you.”
“Unconditional love – unlike friends, relationships, parents.”
Enzo, valuable Equipp team member 🙂
Caring for a pet teaches so much
Having something to care for is important and the many responsibilities that pet ownership entails are helpful in learning life skills.
As one of our panel told us, training dogs in particular involves:
“Teaching and learning mutual respect and teamwork, all wrapped up in the best kind of loyal companionship you can hope for”.
We’ll leave you with one last story we were told by one of teen advisors that expresses just how important a relationship with a pet can be to an adolescent:
“My grandparents had an elderly golden retriever called Finn. He was a large dog, like a mini pony. When we were younger, he was full of beans and yet so patient, letting us ride him, play with him, hug him. He was extremely obedient and well-behaved, never breaking the rules, and he wasn’t allowed upstairs.
My grandparents came to visit when Finn was clearly nearing the end of his life. On their last evening my parents said I should say goodbye in case it was the last time I saw him, as my grandparents were leaving very early in the morning. I hugged him and cried (read: sobbed) for a while before miserably going upstairs and eventually got to sleep.
I woke up very early – I couldn’t sleep well – and at about 5am I turned over and saw Finn on my bedroom floor. After realising how upset I was, he must have waited until everybody else had gone to bed, knowing he wasn’t allowed upstairs, and then crept up. As soon as it was 6am, he went downstairs to avoid getting into trouble. I will never forget this and the kindness and empathy this dog showed. They are truly incredible animals.”
All the feels, right?!
As we look back on the months of lockdown, too, we can recognise that pets have never been so important for teens. Which is one of the points we were making back in March 2020 in our article about life online. If you have teens and you can incorporate a pet into your life, we promise you won’t regret it!
Louise & Anna x