NOTE: this is an article from 2018 that I thought would be good to rehash. Note, things are now grossly different from 2018 to 2020, but the sentiment remains the same.
If you’ve never watched the movie My Dog Skip, I recommend that you do. If you’ve ever owned a Jack Russell Terrier (or lost a good dog for that matter) I suggest having two boxes of Kleenexes close by. Though not the fastest paced movie, it is a good rendition of what the life of a child with a doggy best friend could be like. Of course, it is a movie, with the setting of the movie being in the 1940’s and life was vastly different back then, but often times I believe we are missing out on so much in 2018 as compared to even 15 – 20 years ago.
I think we are missing out on the relationship that kids used to have with their pets, their friends, with the outdoors, with getting dirty, with playing and with just being a kid. Of course this is not true for all children, however, with the amount of device use now-a-days, the missing out goes up significantly. But I digress.
Here is where your dog can help to make a huge difference in your child’s life. I will preface this by saying that no child should interact with a dog that is out of control or that has behavioural issues, but we are going to assume, in this case, all is well with Fido, and that he’s not out to kill anyone.
Your relationship with your dog, as the parent or guardian, will dictate how your child’s relationship with their dog will be. If you are a push over and give in to the dogs every desire, treat Poochie like the boss queen delicate flower, and put them on a equal playing field, then I would suggest to do some soul searching on the balance in your relationship before you attempt to let your child handle the dog. If you are a domineering, heavy handed person who likes to use intimidation to teach, better take a look at your life, because you’re child can be likely to follow suit, and you need to fix that first.
If your child is responsible, and of an age to be able to take direction (and actually follow it) then you can start incorporating your child into the training/exercising of your dog. If your child is out of control, I would not recommend them handling the dog until they show restraint and self control that would benefit the dog/child relationship.
No child, no matter the age, should be placed below the dog on the pecking order … ever. Sadly, I have seen this happen and it is a huge recipe for disaster. If this is the case in your house-hold, you need to immediately change this (and give yourself a smack in the head) in order for the child and dog to have a proper, respectful relationship.
Enough about the rules – here is the fun, educational and beneficial part. A dog can help build a child’s self esteem, confidence, physical activity level, outdoor time and responsibility levels. A dog can be a child’s best friend, confidant, motivation and entertainment. And the cool thing is, a dog can do all of this by just being a dog.
Children gain confidence in their abilities when they can direct and teach their dog new things. It can bring a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, and with that, alongside the higher confidence level comes higher self esteem. The ability to direct, teach and accomplish things with their canine buddies opens a whole new world for them to explore, have fun with and get involved in. Being involved with their dogs also brings with it learning about responsibilities – the responsibility of picking up after the dog, exercising and feeding them, training them and in general, caring for them. When a child is given some responsibilities to handle, this can also work wonders for confidences levels and the joy of accomplishing tasks.
Dogs like being outside and need physical activity – guess what? It’s good for the kiddos too. If you have a dog, then it’s 100% likely that they need to be walked, and what better way to get your child on board with outdoor time then letting them take Fido’s lead and exercising their buddy. Exploring, hiking, fishing and walking with dogs is fun – the dogs are usually up for lots of things, can keep up with the child, and are always interested in exploring new things. Exploring and learning about nature by just being in it is fantastic for both dogs and kids. This gets kids moving, which is something lacking in 2018, and gets them outside, in the dirt, in the rain, in the fresh air, which is 100 times more beneficial for them then being in front of a screen. This gets the dog exercised, excess energy burnt and builds a fantastic bond with their child friend.
A good game of fetch with a dog who has been taught the rules of the game is awesome entertainment for kids. The dogs learn that the children can be in charge of the game and the dog gets a good amount of exercise and energy burnt. The child learns how to control the game, give direction and have fun while doing it. If you have a backyard it’s a fun and easy way to exercise and entertain both … and who doesn’t want things made easy when you’ve got kids or dogs?
A dog can also be a friend, or even best friend, and can very much benefit children who have a harder time being social with their peers, or who are shy or more withdrawn. Having a dog to hang out with, talk about and show off, can help with communication and to a greater extent, having someone to hang out with. Please don’t get me wrong, a dog can not replace a human friend for social interaction, peer learning etc. but a dog can help be there when things get a little harder.
For children who need someone to talk to or read to, sometimes a dog is better then a person. A dog won’t judge, they won’t say you’re not good enough, they won’t correct your grammar/speech and they are good listeners. Sometimes it takes opening up to a dog first before kids are comfortable opening up to their peers, parents, teachers etc. as it gives them an audience/outlet that is completely non-judgemental. Dogs are great motivators this way (and I suppose cats are as well).
So if you have a dog, who is well behaved, trained and polite with whom your child is interested in building a relationship with, I say make it happen. Give them some responsibility, teach them how to teach, let them build their confidence and self esteem, give them the opportunity to get outside – let them enjoy each others company. There is nothing better then seeing the bond that can grown between a child and a dog.
And if you have a dog who doesn’t have training, and you also have kids, there is no better reason to get on top of that training so that your child can build a respectful, engaging and meaningful relationship with their pup that can benefit them throughout their lives in so many ways.