5 Ways a Dog Can Give Your Kids a Great Childhood
I love dogs. And I love my children. So I’m glad I was able to combine the two and completely enjoy that vibrant, stimulating, stage of my life – those long, endless days when the children were young.
The dogs helped in so many ways. For one thing ,they gave me an excuse to park the kids with a protesting Dad and head off to the fields for some solitude – a time for reflection and mental refreshment while enjoying the beauty of my dogs running and playing. A valuable piece of advice from a friend was to do just that as soon as possible after coming home with my firstborn. I did, and she was so right!
But apart from being a salve to my soul, they were an essential part of my children’s growing up.
1. When you have a dog, no food will ever hit the floor.
This saves you having to scrub floors and shampoo carpets and ensures that children learn to hold onto their food and put their plates on the table, not the floor, if they want to see their biscuit again.
It would amuse me to watch my three-year-old weaving his way through the hens, his apple held aloft at full-stretch over his head.
2. The children will use up huge quantities of excess energy playing outside (you know, that place where game consoles don’t work).
They’ll make hideouts and bat caves; they’ll find out that fallen apples make great retrieve toys; that racing around wildly is more fun with a dog who can always outmanoeuvre them. They’ll learn about trees, plants, wild fruits and berries, on your long, lazy country walks. They’ll find the joy in sitting on a grassy mound admiring the sunset, with an arm round their panting friend.
As they get a bit older, your kids will get braver with their companion at their side and be able to go on “explores” without fear. It’ll give you some comfort too. I was fortunate to rear my boys in a very rural area where dangers were largely confined to farmyard hazards and falling out of trees. City dwellers may have to reserve this learning for their holidays.
3. Learning how dogs learn will teach your children to observe how they themselves learn.
And how to get the best out of other children and people. Seeing that being clear about what you feel and what you want makes it easier for others to give you what you want, can come from the simple act of watching their dog sitting just to get a treat. It’s very useful for them to learn that screaming and ranting do not get what they want, but expressing themselves calmly and rationally often will. Consistency in how your dog is treated will teach them to respect the boundaries you set. When a visiting 6-year-old started to whinge and complain because I had said no to her request, my wise 4-year-old stopped her in her tracks by telling her: “She means it, you know.”
Teaching your dog more complicated tricks, one baby step at a time, teaches kids the joy of building knowledge – and that rewarding things you like will get those things happening again and again. How valuable a lesson is that for interacting with and managing people!
4. Everyone in the family will have someone else to consider other than themselves.
This breeds an altruism much to be admired in young children. It can include feeding and grooming their pet, learning to watch out for dangers to their paws or stomachs, making comfy beds for them (one of my sons used to build large “apartment blocks” for the cats, from interconnecting cardboard boxes with tunnels and staircases. They were known as the Cat Flats.) And, of course, allowing them the peace and freedom to be a dog and not a dolly.
When I recently took the leash of a puppy in class to demonstrate a new game to his owners, their three-year-old daughter stepped forward and said firmly “That’s OUR puppy! Where are you taking him?” They’d only had their puppy a couple of weeks but she already had enough love for him to embolden her sufficiently to confront a stranger.
5. Your children will always have someone on their side who loves them – even when they’re in trouble and think you don’t care.
A furry friend who loves them back without question or judgement is a great confidence-booster. And if your child is getting minor bullying at school, these moments of companionship with their special friend can be very valuable to rebuild their self-esteem.
Having an undemanding friend to lean on is something we all cherish. This relationship also helps us to deal with those who are not so amenable and teaches us humility and true caring – attributes I’m proud to see reflected in my adult children’s lives.
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This post was written by Beverley Courtney exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.