Editorial: Pets Are Helpful to a Student’s Developmental and Social Skills

KIARA MOSTLY LYING ON EMILY BRANDON'S BOOKS -- Emily Brandon's 10 year old Great Dane lies with her while she studies.

KIARA MOSTLY LYING ON EMILY BRANDON'S BOOKS -- Emily Brandon's 10 year old Great Dane lies with her while she studies.

Shelby Campbell, Staff Writer

It is estimated that nearly 68 percent of American families own a pet of some kind. Parents all over the country have been heard saying, “We bought the dog for the kids,” or, “The kids wanted a cat,” or,  “We are hoping the hamster will teach the kids some responsibility.” For years and years, dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, and other animals have been bought “for the kids”, but how much do these pets really impact the life of a child, or a high school student?

According to developmental psychologist Gail F. Melson, teenagers who have a pet of some kind and share an emotional connection with their pet tend to have higher measures of emotional connections and that other interactions with an animal may better the emotions and social skills necessary to develop sound and stable social relationships.

In addition to having better social relationships, Melson also discovered that high school students in the United States are more likely to see themselves as leaders in a community, and are therefore more likely to take on leadership roles in their community and their school, such as joining the student government or doing community service.

Having a pet, specifically a dog or a higher energy pet, can be a much-needed distraction from the high pressure of school, both socially and academically.

“[Kiara] and I have a really close bond and she can always tell when I’m upset. She helps me more than an actual therapist could!” expressed Emily Brandon, a junior at Central High School, regarding her 10 year old Great Dane.

Students with pets often find it easier to focus and concentrate on homework and other studies when their pet with them. For many, simply having any animal around can help lower a teenager’s stress level.

“Sometimes Kiara lays in the floor with me when I do my homework… Well, mostly she just lays on top of my books,” shared Emily Brandon.

Forensic Science and Biology teacher, Ms. Christina Cotreau, who has several dogs herself, believes that having a dog can be a positive influence on anyone’s life, not just students!

“I guess there’s no way to really know if dogs love us, but I certainly like to think so; mine snuggle with me when I’m sick and are always happy to see me. Whenever I’ve had a bad day, those wagging tails and smiling puppy faces make it so much better,” commented Ms. Cotreau.

It’s been proven that having a pet can truly affect a student’s performance not only academically, but also socially. For students with severe anxiety and high stress levels, having a pet can significantly lower the affects of the pressure of high school.