Pets Vs. Kids

Do kids still trump pets?

In recent years, there has been a progressive trend towards choosing dogs over children. Which begs the question, do kids still trump pets?, or have we seen a reversal?

So I think we can all agree that we definitely treat our animals as family members. But how do they compare against our children?

There are obvious benefits, they are toilet trained in less than 2 months, don’t need a college education or a fancy new car. And they won’t have a hissy fit if you forget to take them on their daily walk.


Communication and social understanding is an area of debate at the moment. You would assume that children would quickly accelerate past dogs when it comes to learning how to communicate and understand their parents. But research suggests that when it comes to this, the difference between dogs and children isn’t quite so pronounced.

At around 9mths of age, children start to understand what their parents are trying to communicate, to either themselves, or to others by watching their parent’s actions. Dogs are able to do much the same.
A perfect example of this is when you play fetch. If you throw a stick, and your dog doesn’t watch where it goes, you can point in the right direction, and they will head off towards the stick. This is amazing, it suggests that dogs are able to infer and understand the meaning behind the ‘pointing’ gesture, simply by observation. With children, the next step in the learning curve is to learn their first words. They initially learn by inferences, in conjunction with ‘trained words’. Dogs follow the same learning pathway, and also learn by inference.

Julianne Kaminski, from the University of Portsmouth, proved this is animals in the following manner. A bunch of Border Collie’s (including one by the name of Rico), were offered 7 toys they knew by name, then one they had never seen or heard before. They asked the dogs to fetch the new toy using a randomly chosen name, and the dog would grab the new toy. Over time, using this method, the dogs were able to learn thousands of new words. This proves that dogs are able to infer meaning from trained knowledge, and hence, dogs are able to learn to communicate in the same way children can.

Loyalty and Attachment

We know how attached children can be with their family, and their parents, just as we fully appreciate the levels of loyalty dogs feel for their owners. But to what degree to animals feel attached to their owners?

At the Lorand Eotvos University, A Professor by the name of Joszef Topal, utilised a test called the ‘Strange Situation’ to assess dog’s attachment levels. As you can imagine, strongly attached children use their mother as a security base to explore from, and will rush their mother when they return. Topal found similarities between strongly attached children and dogs. The dogs would explore more when their owner was in the room, and would ‘search’ and stand at the door when their owner left. When the owner returns, the dogs sought immediate physical contact. The study proved that attachments levels between infants and dogs was very similar.

So, basically dogs can learn to read your gestures and communicate, but can’t talk back. They can be show strong elements of attachment and loyalty, without costing a bomb. In my mind, the decision is an easy one.

Do you have a question for Dr Ben? Ask him here

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Posted by annietsuiReport
so lovely