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Children, Empathy and Dogs

By Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP


Empathy, the ability to see and feel the world from another person's perspective, is a crucial ingredient in all intimate relationships. Over 20,000 years, dogs have developed this capacity, some to a truly remarkable degree. 


Most children are naturally empathic. They can learn to be even more empathic and to have empathy even under trying circumstances. Those children who are lucky enough to grow up with a canine companion have a great advantage. 

Parents can also point out ways in which the family pet has empathy for its human companions; noticing when someone is ill, tired, or upset, for example. Parents can also help children to learn to identify their dog's moods and needs: when the dog is tired, bored and asking to play, or frightened and needing a comforting pet or snuggle.

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