Not only is a dog man’s best friend, but they will undoubtedly be your child’s (or grandchild’s) best friend too. Here are some reasons that a pet makes a great addition to a family.

Pets give unconditional love, and they will help teach your kids what that means. Pets listen when your child is lonely, sad, angry, or afraid. They attend tea parties, lick away our tears, and even keep our secrets. Who wouldn’t want a best friend like that?

Kids can help with pet care and learn responsibility. Give your child an age-appropriate task for your pet, such as keeping the water bowls fresh and full. Or, have them help with feeding. These tasks help your child bond with your pet and learn about commitment. Gently make them keep up their task. Contributing to the care of a family pet helps them develop compassion, empathy, and self-esteem.

Your kids will get more exercise. In this day and age when kids are spending so much time with electronics, a pet (especially a dog) is a great way to get them outside and moving. They can take the dog for a walk, toss a ball for them in the backyard; even playing with the cat takes them away from the iPad!

Children who live with pets are sick less often. Many studies have proved this. Better yet, children that are exposed to pets around birth have fewer allergies. Children that are exposed to pets early on are also less likely to have eczema.

Believe it or not, pets help kids develop their reading skills.There were studies done about this too! Young children love to read to their pets, which encourages them to practice reading, learn new words, and gain confidence.

Learning to love and care for animals helps to encourage the next generation of animal advocates. Sadly, we all know that some animals are mistreated, and there are just too many pets in shelters. Kids that grow up with a pet are more likely to rescue an animal in need; it teaches them respect for all living things.

So consider a new friend – because these benefits aren’t just for kids, pets benefit your entire family!