Michelle Bridges explains why having a pet is good for kids

Having a dog teaches you about sharing, caring and being responsible.
Having a dog teaches you about sharing, caring and being responsible. Photo: Getty Images

My daughter G desperately wants a pet dog. It's nothing new - she started asking for a pet dog before she could talk - her canine obsession began with woof sounds and enthusiastic pointing from her buggy. But despite her pledging I was firm – dog ownership wasn't for us.

The years passed, the pleading didn't.  G's dog fixation grew. She drew pictures of dogs. She used her birthday money to buy toy dogs (naturally, the ones that bark are her favourite) and she even made a speech about why she wants a pet dog for her schools public speaking competition.

So, after seven years of pleading, I am slowly coming round to the idea that a dog could join our family.  

Of course, making my daughter happy isn't the only reason for my change of heart. New research from Medibank has found that pet ownership comes with some positive benefits for kids. I caught up with Medibank ambassador and fitness guru Michelle Bridges to find out more.

Michelle has been a proud dog owner for over a decade and says that her rescue dog Paddy has been an absolute joy. But since becoming a mum she has also become attuned to Paddy's effect on her one-year-old son Axel.

"Having a dog is a bit of learning curve for children. Axel is learning how to communicate with Paddy and how to be gentle. The two of them are already great mates," says Michelle.

"Having a dog teaches you about sharing, caring and being responsible."

Michelle also reassures me that having a dog brings a great deal of joy and happiness. And of course, daily dog walking is a big plus for families because it forces you out the door regardless of what else is happening.

But it's not just the walking. "Even just playing with the dog in the back makes kids more active," notes Michelle.

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There are other benefits too. Michelle tells me that having a pet dog can teach children to think about others. "They will start to think about how day to day activates impact the dog – so rather than just heading to a friends house after school they'll have to stop and think about who will walk or feed the dog."

Pet ownership is also beneficial for kids' (and parents') mental health. "Having a pet is a very grounding experience. Research shows that having a pet can help to reduce stress, depression, anxiety and it can lower your blood pressure and improve your immunity," Michelle explains.

When it comes to choosing a dog, Michelle is a big advocate for rescue animals. "There are so many dogs in shelters that are waiting to find their forever family. If you are considering having a pet then I urge anyone to consider saving a life and adopting a rescue animal," she says.

To further encourage Australian's to adopt rescue animals Medibank are currently offering free pet insurance for three months as part of their #lovemyrescue campaign.

Michelle is emphatic when she tells me that having a rescue animal is a wonderful win/win. "It's a beautiful way to get all the benefits of having a pet as well as knowing that you've brought one more animal out of a shelter," she says.

Am I sold? Well, I'm definitely getting there. I didn't see it coming, but maybe I am a dog person after all.