The next time you watch a group of pre-adolescents freaking out about … whatever, and there’s that one kid who’s just a calm in that storm, here’s a quick way to make a buck: Bet another parent that the kid’s family has a dog.
That’s the takeaway from new research coming out of Dartmouth Medical School and the University Of Oklahoma’s Basset Medical Center, which found that homes with man’s best friend have 6 and 7-year-old kids with significantly lower levels of anxiety. The researchers compared physical and mental health of 643 kids and, while physical health stayed consistent between kids with dogs and those without, mental health was qualitatively different: 21 percent of kids without dogs qualified for the Screen For Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED), compared to just 12 percent of kids with dogs. Presumably, the researchers aren’t talking about those Prius-driving, wine-guzzling breeds that are smarter than you.
The study doesn’t go so far as to explain this phenomenon, although the researchers suggest that affectionate dog slobber might reduce cortisol, the hormone related to stress. Combined with the fact that family dogs are also linked to kinder, more empathetic kids, this should probably be enough to finally give in and just get your kid a pooch. It’s good for the kid, and it’s way less creepy than that thing Hasbro is trying to sell you.