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A Kid's Best Friend

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Researchers recently studied the bond between kids and animals. They recruited 30 children and their dogs.

A student does schoolwork at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in New York City in 2020. Her dog, a schnoodle, keeps her company.

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The kids brought their dogs to a large, empty room. The kids walked around the space. Sometimes, they paused or changed direction. “The dog was left to do whatever the dog wanted to do—run around the room, or sniff, or lie down and take a nap,” Monique Udell says. She’s one of the study’s authors.

Most of the time, a dog moved like its owner. When the kid walked, the dog walked too. When the kid stopped, the dog stopped. When the kid changed direction, so did the dog.

New research shows that dogs often copy kids’ actions. This may help humans and dogs bond with one another.

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What does this mean? Udell says it’s a dog’s way of building a relationship with a human. Adults are usually the ones who feed and care for pets. But “the kid may play a sibling role in the life of the dog,” Udell says. “Those bonds are important to the dog.”

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