Dogs have a lot to teach us, and unfortunately, they don’t have many years to do it. I grew up in a household that had two dogs from the moment I was brought home from the hospital. While, yes, it is extra work and concern for the parents at first, the payoff of having kids grow up with dogs is totally worth it. I will forever be grateful towards my parents for allowing my siblings and I to grow up surrounded by dogs and I plan to have my kids grow up with them as well.
Dogs teach compassion. This is something that our world needs a lot more of. Kids with dogs learn from a very young age that animals need to be treated with respect and kindness. This behavior then transfers over to people. I am not saying that kids without dogs are abusive and mean to animals by any means. Compassion is also something that comes from good parenting, but having a dog teaches that compassion isn’t just for people, its also for animals. Animals have feelings too, and many people forget this, hence the massive amounts of dogs that are in shelters. Kids that grow up around dogs learn the meaning of “gentle” pretty quickly. They also learn from a young age that tails and ears aren’t meant to be pulled on.
Dogs are a source of comfort, confidence, and reassurance. When I was young, I was a horrible sleeper. It got to the point that I tried therapy to figure out why I couldn’t sleep. I was always afraid of things being in my closet, I would hear noises, and was fearful of many other things that were just a figment of my imagination. We had a yellow lab, Maggie, who would sleep at the top of the stairs every night when my siblings and I went to bed. I would sneak out of my room and go lay with Maggie because she made me feel safe. I knew that Maggie would protect me and she provided a sense of comfort that no one else did. I would lay right next to her and instantly fall asleep because, next to her, I knew nothing was going to happen to me. While, yes, parents can provide this comfort too, I think many kids respond to dogs better because the dog isn’t telling them that there is nothing under the bed or in the closet. They just are there and show by example that everything is okay without trying to educate you about the irrationality of your fearful thoughts. If there were anything to worry about, Maggie would alert me. In the many years she was there, not once was there anything for me to be afraid of.
Dogs teach responsibility. From the moment we could, my siblings and I were out scooping poop, picking up toys, feeding the dogs and vacuuming up their hair. These were things that had to be done, and we learned that if the dogs aren’t fed they aren’t happy and if the backyard is covered in poop our parents aren’t happy. Obviously, kids in families without dogs learn responsibility too, but this type of responsibility is a bit different in the sense that if you skip a certain chore, such as feeding the dogs, the dogs go hungry and that isn’t fair to them. If you skip doing the dishes, no one is hurt or left unfed.
Kids with dogs also learn the importance of exercise. If your dog needs to get out and run around a couple times a day, so do you. Obesity is a huge problem in America, especially in kids. Having a dog requires parents and kids to get outside and walk them which can only do good for both the dogs and the kids. Having a dog to run around outside and explore with is something that a lot of kids can benefit from, my siblings and I sure did.
Kids need to learn these characteristics no matter what. If you don’t have a dog, it doesn’t mean that your kids aren’t going to learn all of these things. I am a firm believer that dogs can teach us all of these things too, just in a different way. Many kids hate being told what to do and a great thing about dogs is that they can’t tell you what to do. They don’t nag you to do your chores or scold you if you don’t. Kids who grow up with them just learn naturally how to do many of these things I discussed above. Some of my best childhood memories are with my dogs, and I can’t wait for my kids to have the same experiences that I did.