Most of us want to raise our kids to be leaders -- to dream their own dreams, stand up against the crowd when the crowd is wrong, and enjoy the joy and accomplishment of working well with others. But how do you nurture these skills in children? New research from Kelton Research for Banfield Pet Hospital, highlighted by Fast Company, offers a simple suggestion -- get them a dog.

The poll of 857 Americans found that a whopping 93 percent of C-suite executives surveyed grew up with a pet (83 percent had a dog), while 78 percent partially attribute their career success to owning a pet as a kid. Science suggests these leaders aren't just motivated by love for their furry childhood friends. A stack of research shows owning a dog offers serious benefits to both future and current leaders.


It might be an old saw that giving a child a pet teaches responsibility, but it's a cliche that a lot of leaders seem to agree with. Not only did a quarter of executives surveyed say their childhood pet taught them more than their first internship, but large percentages also agreed that taking care of Fido or Spot helped them developed key leadership skills like discipline (92 percent) and organization (79 percent).

The many benefits of walks

The benefits of pet ownership for kids (and adults) go beyond the obvious advantage of teaching the importance of remembering your responsibilities. With nearly 20 percent of American kids suffering from obesity, walking a dog is certainly a good step towards a more active lifestyle. And even modest increases in activity have significant health benefits.

Regular walks have other impressive benefits too. Getting up on your feet helps you think, focus, and keep your moods on an even keel, according to Harvard research. While other studies show that a long walk can be the perfect way to unleash your creativity. We can all agree those qualities are leadership essentials.

Empathy and collaboration

The least obvious benefit of getting a dog might just be the biggest when it comes to developing future leaders. Recent research has shown that simply having a dog present helps people work better in teams and collaborate more effectively. Dogs just seem to make people more trusting, empathetic, and kinder.

That means that having the family pooch join your kids and their friends in the yard is likely to make playtime go smoother. And psychologists have shown it's just that sort of self-directed play (rather than organized "leadership-building" activities like sports or Scouts) that teaches kids to determine their own goals and organize others to reach them -- in short, to lead.