How dogs teach our kids responsibility, sharing and communication – Part 4
As a parent who brings home a new puppy for the joy that the children will experience, your role is also to use the puppy as a “teacher-dog”, which simply means using the pet to teach your kids morals and responsibility. Specific situations come up all of the time in the home to take advantage of this opportunity.
Real life example
My neighbor, Irene, did not like dogs to begin with, but a Basset Hound was being abandoned. It was scruffy and had rickets. Irene took him, saying all the time she “didn’t want that dumb dog messing up the house, but someone had to take it.”
Now, one of her sons, Eric, is knee-deep in chores. He is 8 years old and exercises the dog, finds the places outside of Irene’s flowerbeds for the dog, Lily, to dig holes. Little boy Eric sees Irene preparing Lily’s food. She fries fat, adds it to the dog’s food, and mixes in vitamins.
Eric sees the medicine and the care… and sees a change in his dog.
Her coat glistens from the food and her personality opens up. At first, Lily would not even move. Now she chases Eric with a fast, bow-legged waddle. At first, she would not even respond to a scolding. Now when Irene gives commands, she obeys but grumbles under her breath.
Irene sees not instant companionship but a growing bond between Eric and the dog. The eight-year-old does not consider this as a responsibility, but just a new kind of loyalty he never felt before.
Being put in Eric’s situation – having something weaker dependent upon you is a rare experience for such a young child. It gave Eric his own place in the family. He has an older brother and sister, and although they get along very well, there is a five-year gap between their adolescence and his childhood.
Eric’s association with the dog gave his brother and sister an opportunity to truthfully admire what he was doing without talking down to him. It was something Eric could do that was not just a child’s accomplishment – it was considered important in the adult world, too.
Eric also solved a problem he was having with not being able to play ball with his older brother. He would not play with Eric due to his age and lack of coordination that a 13-year-old just could not have fun with. Now Eric can play ball with Lily. It’s not the best – Lily can’t throw and neither of them can catch – but it evens out.