10 Reasons a Pet Can Help Your Teen Get Through the Turbulent Teen Years

Teens and Pets are a Magical Combination

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 10 Reasons a Pet Can Help Your Teen Get Through the Turbulent Teen Years

Written by: Marybeth Bock

If you’re one of the many parents whose teen has been begging you for a pet, you’re definitely not alone. A recent survey of 2,000 parents of school-aged children found that 74% of kids have asked for a pet on average of 11 times per month starting at age 6 – that’s 1584 times before they reach the age of 18!

For the most part, their kids’ begging is paying off with nearly two-thirds of parents claiming they eventually cave in. According to the report, a puppy or dog is the most popular pet request followed by a cat, fish, bird, and then a rabbit. 

And, the pandemic has fueled our kids’ desire for a pet even more, especially dogs, with the Washington Post reporting that shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, and pet stores’ demand for puppies and dogs have skyrocketed since the pandemic started.

As a mom, I can attest first-hand to the benefit of having a family pet… especially when your kids are teenagers.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest joys in my life is watching my kids interact with our sweet family dog, Bailey. Our rescued, mixed-breed hound gives my kids reason to laugh every single day, regardless of what else is going on around them or how hard their day has been. 

When my kids fail a test, Bailey’s there to comfort them. When they’re feeling down about something that happened in school or they had an argument with a friend, Bailey’s there. When they just need a friend or ally in life, Bailey is always quick to snuggle and remind them that they’re not alone. 

The truth is, unbeknownst to Bailey, who’s really just interested in snuggles, long walks, and occasional treats, he’s helped my kids navigate some of the toughest and unsettling years of their life.

Whether you take the plunge and buy your teen a dog, cat, rabbit or bird, just having a pet can bring your teen so much comfort knowing they have a steadfast companion whose always by their side. And, according to science, having a pet can prove invaluable to our teen’s physical and mental health!

10 Reasons Why a Pet Can Help Your Teen Through the Turbulent Teen Years

#1 Pets Can Decrease Your Teen’s Anxiety

Let’s face it – the teen years are a tumultuous time for our kids. Everything seems to be changing at once. Our kids’ minds and bodies, their moods, and their relationships are pretty much “under construction” during the teen years and, even on their best days, anxiety can run high. Add in having to deal with a global pandemic, which has spawned even more anxiety, and it’s no wonder so many teens are suffering right now.

But just being in the presence of a cherished pet can lower our teen’s heart rate and bring them a sense of calm. Teens who are around dogs and cats experience higher levels of “feel-good” brain chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin, mainly due to the fact that pets are calming companions that help lower our kids’ stress and anxiety

#2 Pets Have Been Known to Improve Depression

There’s a reason dogs are so amazing as emotional support animals and that they’re used to aid in therapy. Dogs have a natural ability to pick up on how people are feeling, and they can actually smell our emotions.

While a dog, cat or rabbit can’t cure a teen’s depression, (and symptoms lasting longer than a few weeks should be addressed with a professional healthcare provider), an animal can certainly help a teen who is struggling with feelings of loneliness and sadness. Dogs, for example, are adept at interpreting tone of voice, gestures, moods and language. And, like a trusted human friend, a loyal dog will look into your teen’s eyes and pick up on their need for love or attention just when they need it the most.

#3 Pets Teach Responsibility

Anyone who owns a pet knows there are plenty of responsibilities associated with caring for their needs, and some pets require a whole lot more care than others. Sure, walking a dog, changing kitty litter, or cleaning a rabbit’s cage can be work, but taking the focus off themselves and caring for a pet who relies on them not only instills a sense of responsibility in our teens, but also a ton of empathy. (Just ask any teenager whose dog looks them in the eyes and begs to go for a walk or play fetch – it’s awfully hard to turn them down!)

Even if our teens are only partially responsible for the care and upkeep of a family pet, having a pet can help your teen build their confidence as a competent caregiver and give them a sense of purpose and usefulness.

#4 Pets Offer Teens a Great Reason to Be Home!

We’ve all spent more time at home over the past couple of years, but studies have shown that our teens have struggled with this forced isolation more than most. At a time in their lives when they’re supposed to be hanging with friends, going to school, football games and practices, and figuring out who they are, they’re finding themselves holed up in their bedrooms feeling rather suffocated. 

Having a pet makes being home so much more bearable. And, on the flip side, pets offer busy teens a great reason to stay home and chill out on occasion. In my family, our dog brings our family closer together, too! Family walks in the woods with Bailey leading the way have initiated more awesome conversations with my kids than I can recall. 

#5 Pets Foster Emotional Intelligence

Being aware of our own emotions and of those around us, known as emotional intelligence, is a life skill that most teens are just beginning to develop.

Learning the nuances of empathy, body language, and social cues takes time, but having a pet can actually help our kids not only tune in to their own emotions, but also the emotions of their pet. 

Think about it. The family dog or sometimes even the family cat will be the first one to snuggle up next to our kids when they’re sick or down in the dumps. Dogs wag their tail when they’re excited and cats will rub up against you when they’re happy to see you. This non-verbal communication gives our kids plenty of practice picking up on the cues of their pets and helps them inadvertently transfer that skill over to human relationships in their life.

#6 Pets Help Shy Teens Become More Social

Pets have an uncanny way of helping our teens foster socialization with others. Whether our kids take their dog to a dog park where they strike up conversations with other like-minded, dog-lovin’ people or they have friends over who sit around and pet their cat, animals have a way of making our kids more relaxed and engaging with others. Even socially awkward teens have fessed up that pets serve as a conversation ice breaker and a connection with others.

And, teachers who have taught via Zoom calls or FaceTime have admitted that teens positively respond when a pet is onscreen with them, showing more eye contact, engaging behavior and smiles. 

#7 Pets Can Improve Teen’s Self-Esteem

Studies have shown that kids and teens with pets (particularly dogs and cats) have higher self-esteem. “Anyone who has grown up with, and loved a family pet intrinsically feels the value of their companionship,” says project lead Dr. Carri Westgarth, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health.

When a dog gives our teens unconditional love it has a way of boosting our kids’ self-worth and counteracting any problems or negativity they may be facing in other areas of their lives. Furthermore, the fact that teens are fully responsible for another living being helps them build confidence in their abilities and enhances their self-esteem. 

#8 ADHD & Autistic Teens Benefit from Having a Pet

Many teenagers on the autism spectrum can develop exceptionally strong bonds with animals. According to Dogs For Good, trained autism assistance dogs help change habits by introducing routines, interrupting repetitive behaviors, helping kids cope with unfamiliar surroundings, and even aid in communication.

A pet can also help your teen if they ADHD. Well-trained dogs can help a teen become “centered,” help them calm down, and give them something to focus on. In addition, petting and cuddling with pets release stress-reducing hormones which can be exceptionally helpful for neurodiverse kids. 

#9 Having a Non-Judgmental, Loyal Friend is Just What Teens Need

The reality is, our teens are constantly being judged – by teachers and coaches at school, by friends and co-workers, and even perfect strangers. Heck, they even feel judged by us (at least it feels that way to our kids) when we teach and guide them or lay into them when we lose our cool or get frustrated. (It happens to the best of parents.)

The beauty of having a furry friend they can snuggle with is that no matter what our kids do or don’t do, they’ll never be judged, criticized, lectured or rejected. A loving pet who feels part of the family will be just as loyal (if not sometimes more loyal) as our teen’s human friends. 

#10 Pets Give Teens a Reason to Get Outdoors and Exercise

I think we can all admit that today’s kids don’t enjoy the outdoors nearly as much as we did growing up. School, work, internships, and of course, plenty of indoor fun like gaming and Netflix means less time outside enjoying nature at its best.

But a dog (and possibly even a cat that doesn’t mind being on a leash) offers teenagers a great excuse to put their cell phone down, hang up their headphones and turn off the television and get outside! Taking a long walk, running through the neighborhood, playing a game of fetch or frisbee isn’t just great exercise for our pets and our kids, simply being outside in the fresh air can help our kids clear their minds and reenergize them. 

Of course, it may not be in the cards for every family to own a pet, but teens who grow up with a family pet can benefit in multiple ways, even if it’s just a couple of goldfish in a bowl. Whether it’s a dog, hamster, or a turtle, a pet provides a teenager with a reliable and positive connection that is sure to bring more love and joy into their life. More importantly, a pet can help your teen get through some of the most turbulent years of their life. 

If you enjoyed, “10 Reasons a Pet Can Help Your Teen Get Through the Turbulent Teen Years,” you might also enjoy reading:

Why It’s So Important to Nurture Your Teen’s Sense of Belonging

When Your Teen Is Being Left Out – 10 Tips to Soothe the Sting

About Marybeth Bock:

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Why Not Join Us?
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join over 3.000 visitors who are receiving our newsletter and learn how to optimize your blog for search engines, find free traffic, and monetize your website.
RAISING TEENS TODAY is a resource and safe zone for parents to share the joys, challenges, triumphs and frustrations of raising our oh, so imperfect (but totally awesome) teens. PLUS, sign up and you'll receive my FREE e-Book "Scoring Scholarships!"

You may also like

Leave a Comment