Info For Teachers

Human-Animal Bond

What is the Human-Animal Bond?

The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial relationship between people and animals. Although the human-animal bond has existed for thousands of years, it has not always looked the same throughout history. What started out as a working relationship with animals providing protection and service to humans, and animals benefiting from food and shelter, now looks very different. Pets are now being seen as important members of the family and offer multiple benefits for the well-being of all family members.

Positive Impact of the Human Animal-Bond

Emotional Well-being
Pets can provide emotional support for children and contribute to their development. While pets can’t talk back or understand, young people often perceive pets to be a forgiving and non-judgemental source of support and companionship. Pets can provide comfort to both children and adults, especially in stressful, difficult or traumatic times.

The work put in to appropriately take care of a pet can provide a child the opportunity to feel important and needed. If a child fulfills the needs of their pet, they feel a sense of achievement, competence, and confidence that can be vital to their development. 

Improved Social Behaviours

Attachment to pets can also improve social behaviours in young people by teaching them empathy, social competence, communication, kindness, affection, and responsibility. Research has suggested that by learning how to understand an animal’s intentions and needs and communicating in a non-verbal way to meet their needs, children become more capable of expressing and understanding their own emotions as well as others. Pets can teach children how to be kind and think about others, which can contribute to more positive social interactions.

The Impact of Pet Loss on the Human-Animal Bond

Pets can enrich the lives of children, motivating them to learn, take responsibility, and care for others. As a result, many children form strong bonds with their pets, which, as research indicates, can even be stronger than the bonds they have with their own siblings. A child’s strong attachment and affection for their pet can however, be detrimental in certain situations, such as when a pet is lost, or is a victim of animal cruelty. 

Pet Loss

A child will likely experience the loss of their pet in some form during their lifetime. This loss can occur due to different reasons, such as natural death, forced separation, or a pet running away. The grieving process of a child depends on various factors, including a child’s attachment to their pet. The stronger the bond between the child and their pet, the harder it may be for the child to let their pet go. The loss of a pet can be a traumatizing experience for children who consider their pets as their only source of support and affection.

The cause of the animal’s death can also affect a child’s grieving process. If the loss of a pet is ambiguous, such as a pet running away when a disaster strikes, the grief that a child experiences can be complicated, as not knowing the pet’s fate can lead to unresolved guilt, blame, and anger. Similarly, when a child is forced to separate from their pet, it may be more difficult for them to accept their loss. 

Regardless, it is important that during this difficult time, the child’s feelings are validated by friends, family, and teachers who take the time to listen and understand. The loss of a pet may also interfere with the child’s performance in school. Teachers are encouraged to model compassion (such as letting the child know it’s OK they’re feeling this way), report any behavioural changes to the school counselor and the child’s parents, and help the child express their feelings through creative mediums.

Learn more about the human-animal bond

and what teachers can do to understand it and support it:

Improving Attitudes Towards Animals

Strengthening the Human-Animal Bond



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