Follow for more talkers

Toddlers as young as 2 have an instinctive love of dogs

Dogs and children have lots in common. They can form strong bonds with them due to the time they spend together.

Avatar photo


Small girl with pet dog outdoors in garden, walking.
(Ground Picture via Shuttestock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Toddlers as young as two have an instinctive love of dogs, according to new research.

They act on impulse - helping them reach a treat or toy when when the animals show interest, scientists said.

Dr. Rachna Reddy, of Duke University and a lead author of the study, said: "These findings lend support to our hypothesis that children's early-developing proclivities for goal-reading and prosociality extend beyond humans to other animals."

Her team recruited 97 two and three year-olds in Michigan to take part in a series of experiments with three friendly dogs - Fiona, Henry and Seymour.

Participants gave them out-of-reach treats and toys in half - or 50 percent - of all events where dogs attempted to access these items themselves.

In contrast, children offered dogs objects that dogs ignored only half as often - on only 26 percent of occasions. Almost one in two had a dog at home.


This increased likelihood of giving dogs objects - along with the dog being highly engaged and the object being food rather than a toy.

Reddy said: "From several perspectives, children's proclivities to attribute desires and goals to pet dogs during real-life, in-person interactions is unsurprising.

“However, we observed as early as two years of age, children behave in ways showing they are not only able to read the goal-directed behavior of another animal but can and do employ that knowledge to help an animal reach its own goal."

Dogs and children have lots in common. They can form strong bonds with them due to the time they spend together.

Both a puppy and a baby share the common interest of playing and exploring their surroundings.

If a dog and child have grown up together, they can become inseparable. The relations they build can be physically and psychologically beneficial for both parties. 

Babies also experience genuine happiness in the presence of dogs. Studies have identified a rise in levels of feel good chemicals serotonin and dopamine.

Reddy added: "In addition to informing us about childhood helping, these early child behaviors may have important evolutionary significance."

The study is published in the journal Human-Animal Interactions.

Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email [email protected] or submit an inquiry via our contact form.

Top Talkers