Is your adopted kid struggling with attachment? Ditch the therapist and get a dog! 

Is your adopted kid struggling with attachment? Ditch the therapist and get a dog! 

Not satisfied with adopting two kids, not satisfied with moving to Paris, now we have adopted a dog.

It’s taken me 18 years to finally get a dog. The stickler was King of the Mountains, who vetoed every request. Even after I had corralled the support of my troops: Wonder Boy and Super Girl.

But having moved his family to Paris, he has bowed to pressure and we have Lucius who has done wonders for our family.

Our lives are calmer

The biggest change has been the calm that has descended on our home. I can sense the kids’ cortisol levels starting to regulate. Breakfast is far less explosive these days.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that boys with an insecure or disorganized attachment, cortisol levels dropped significantly faster and to lower levels after a exposure to a stressor when supported by a real dog rather than other forms of support, such as a friendly adult or a soft toy dog.

The study suggests that the interaction with a dog, such as stroking, produces oxytocin, this inhibits the production of cortisol, and so the child starts to feel relaxed and experiences less stress. There’s hard science supporting the dog theory!

Getting attached to your pet

There is some really interesting work going on looking at animals as attachment figures.

Coram BAAF, an adoption and fostering professional membership organisation has produced a good practice the guide: Dogs and pets in fostering and adoption. The guide is aimed at parents, carers and professionals.

Making the switch

This is the really interesting bit how an animal can really help a child to form an attachment.  The child forms a relationship with the pet, when they see that the pet trusts their carer, they feel able to trust their carer too.

Getting soft

A pet can help a child start to experience their home in a more positive light.  We are definitely starting to see this. The first six-month in Paris hasn’t been easy, but with Lucius in our lives, the kids are waking up with a smile on their faces.

We are starting to experience the benefit a pet can bring to the life of an adopted child, helping the attachment process and make a new home feel like a real home.

Added benefits of having a dog 

The dynamics of our family have changed. Lucius isn’t just a play-thing, he needs to be looked after and taken care of. The kids are having to:

  • Be more independent 

Both kids have had to become more independent. Now I am potty training Lucius, the kids are having to do more themselves – Want more milk? You know where the fridge is!

  • Be more responsible

Having a pet is a good lesson in responsibility. We have another life in the household, one who relies on us for his safety, wellbeing and happiness. The  kids have to clear away their plates and cutlery after meals, clear up after themselves after playing, pick up their things off the floor, and put away their laundry if they don’t want their socks chewed.

A few facts about Lucius

  1. He’s just over three months old, born on New Year’s day 2016.
  2. He’s a mixed breed, a golden Labrador and something else, if you think you can guess – let me know
  3. He came from Reunion, where if he stayed, we think we would have been a street dog.
  4. We adopted him through Les Petits Innocents, a dog and cat adoption charity based in France.

Do you have a pet in your house?  How has your pet helped your kids? Please let me know, and send pictures.



  1. Tooting Mama
    April 26, 2016 / 6:18 pm

    Hi Nicole – thank you for your wonderful comment. Lucius has had an amazing effect on our kids in terms of regulating emotions, tantrums are at an all time low!

    Don’t let an apartment put you off, Lucius is working out well in our apartment. We live in Paris, mostly everyone in Paris lives in an apartment and so many people have dogs – both big and small.

    If you are getting a dog, research breeds that are good with kids, and how much exercise the dog will need.

    When they are puppies – they will have a lot of energy! I liken the experience to having a baby – potty training – but he is so worth it. What you get from a dog is unconditional love!

    If you have a friend who has a dog, try dog sitting when they are away to test the water, before making a long-term commitment.

    Good luck – keep me posted!


  2. April 26, 2016 / 5:32 pm

    This is AMAZING! Thank you for sharing. We live in the city and don’t have much space for a dog. However, we drove 3000 miles last week so our kids could meet a dolphin they feel connected to (long story). It was an irreplaceable experience for all.

    This post is getting me thinking. Do you have any ideas if small dogs are also helpful? I really don’t think we could have a large dog, but small dogs seem so active (opposite of regulating). After reading your post, I’m looking more into dog ownership.

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