gemma-atkinson

Gemma Atkinson reveals benefits of raising Mia around dogs – and talks mum-shaming

Gemma is the proud owner of Spaniels Norman and Ollie

Kate Thomas

Gemma Atkinson has shared with HELLO! how her dogs Norman and Ollie have changed her family life for the better. The former Strictly star, who raises daughter Mia, one, with professional dancer Gorka Marquez, revealed her gorgeous Spaniels have helped them bond during these difficult months of lockdown.

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The presenter, who has teamed up with Purina for their latest campaign, has been teaching her young daughter all about responsibility and is a firm believer in raising children around animals.

That's not to say she hasn't been faced with critics, however, but Gemma has the perfect answer to all the mum-shamers out there!

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Gemma Atkinson has the best response to mum-shamers about raising Mia around dogs

Gemma explained: "I've had people message me saying she shouldn't be around them, she's too young, you can't trust them. I know Norman and Ollie's character 100 percent, but I would never leave Mia own her own with them, ever.

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"It's a responsibility as a parent to a human and a parent to a dog. Situations can happen, a dog can react if it's feeling threatened or frightened the same as a human would."

Explaining how she has been educating Mia about living with dogs, she said it's all about family time together. "I'm all for all of us sitting on the couch together", Gemma said.

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Mia is very "hands-on" with Gemma and Gorka's pet dogs

"We've taught her never to go around the back end of them, she always has to approach the front. I'm now at that stage where I'm having to explain to her that not all dogs are like Norman and Ollie, when she sees them out walking she wants to go play with them!"

Gemma, who was brought up with dogs and got her own childhood pet when she was just 18 months old, wants to teach Mia all about compassion and responsibility.

Lockdown has seen an unprecedented number of families adopting pets, and Gemma believes her dogs have helped Mia's development so much already.

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Gemma says pet pooches Norman and Ollie have helped her family's mental health

She said: "They've been incredible, they're great with our daughter. A pet around a small child teaches them responsibility and passion.

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"It's been a reason to have to go out walking, especially in lockdown - you're doing it both for the dog and for your own mental health and wellbeing."

Little Mia, who recently melted hearts with a sweet video of her watching dad Gorka dancing with Maisie Smith on Strictly, has come on leaps and bounds during lockdown thanks to spending time with the dogs.

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WATCH: Mia reacts adorably to dad Gorka dancing on Strictly

"They've taken to her so well, she loves coming for walks with us, she knows where all the leads are. I'm very into helping her feed them, she gives them both treats in the morning," Gemma said.

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"She's very hands-on with them. That's how I was brought up too!" How sweet!

Gemma also spilled the beans about being cooped up at home with boyfriend Gorka, insisting they never fight and turn to exercise instead if they need to let off some steam.

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Gemma says lockdown has only brought her and Gorka closer

"I think it's brought us closer together if anything. Because we're used to being apart, we're both very independent anyway. I think that's what makes the relationship better. If you're good on your own, the relationship is great, it's the cherry on top of your own stuff," she explained.

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"We're fortunate to have gym equipment at home, which is great – if either of us wants a break, we could go and workout, which always makes you feel good!"

Gemma has teamed up with Purina to help launch a new competition to find a deserving dog to be the next "Real Dog" star to feature on PURINA BETA pack, plus the chance to win a year's supply of pet food.

To nominate your fury friend, simply post a photo of your dog on Instagram alongside a grid caption explaining how they supported you in lockdown and why they deserve to win using the campaign hashtag #BetaRealDogs.

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