I often reflect at my childhood and only wonder what important lessons I’ve learned over the years. If there had to be one consistency, it was that wherever I was – a dog was never far away.
You never had to be too young, too old, too rich and too poor to appreciate and take advantage of a dog in the household. Every single child I have met that has grown up with dogs have all said the same thing to me – they absolutely love it.
No surprise when you come to think of it, no language is needed, only unconditional love and companionship and quite naturally as children we have plenty to give out!
Reflecting back, I personally learned so many important life lessons from having a dog around the house, lessons that have consistently echoed to this present day. Here are some examples;
Most owners will understand the importance of communicating with your fellow canines. “You wouldn’t shout at a person in the face would you?” I was often reminded as a child, and for good reason. When language is off the table, dogs will look for other forms of communication such as; body language, tone of voice, eye contact and the environment they are being communicated to in. Dogs have feelings just like a child, and I would like to be spoken to in a positive manner with all of those factors being considered.
This is a factor that many often overlook but I cannot stress the importance of this. The very first lesson I was taught when having a pet – they are not toys. They are not simple pleasures that can be discarded or thrown out when you had enough.
That being said, it’s remarkable just how much they have to put up with us so it’s only fair for us to give them the patience and space for them. We all like to have our own ‘me’ time and the same goes for dogs – whether that’s an afternoon nap or a curious wander in the back garden or park.
The thing I dreaded most about high school was my class talks/speeches which I remember vividly. My hands shook, I started stuttering, I kept repeating and in some occasions I leave without finishing the talk, it was not a pretty sight! A friend then suggested, “Why don’t you do it in front of your dog?”
I came back home, presented my talk in front of my black Labrador cross, ‘Woogie’ who gave a rather quizzical look throughout, and with delight I managed to finish the talk. The more I did it, the better I was at it.
Don’t just take my word for it, many studies have proven that children growing up with dogs usually show higher self-esteem, improved social skills and attention spans, better non-verbal communication skills, and even improved school attendance. They’re also more likely to be more emotionally stable and less likely to become criminals. I’m not a child psychologist by any means but surely that’s a positive thing, right?
Life, Death and Responsibilities
As we all know, none of us are getting any younger and it’s certainly no different for dogs. Our beloved dogs will never again be that young, enthusiastic companion you once knew. Throughout a dog’s life they may get ill, disabled or pregnant as well as growing older.
Although the child should not be fully responsible for the care and welfare of the dog, it’s important for them to understand their needs and why they go through these stages.
Ultimately they will reflect the stages of our lives and those we care about in future, and for that I will always be grateful.