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More than responsibility. What dogs REALLY teach kids

More than responsibility. What dogs REALLY teach kids

“Get a dog”, they said. “He will teach your kids responsibility”, they said. Well, I’ll be the first mum to laugh at this all too common reasoning for getting the kids a pet. We got our dog, Toffee, about a year ago and while my boys *sometimes* refill his water bowl, it’s usually me. And don’t get me started on who picks up after him … BUT our furry family member is teaching our kids things I never could have dreamed of. Things that go beyond responsibility and it makes my heart sing.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

Expressing love

Toffee loves us with all of his fast-beating dog heart. We all feel it. We all know it. The party he throws the family when we come home is so over the top and gorgeous. There are little excited jumps for joy, tail wags, elated sprints around the house, as well as slobbery face licks if anyone dares put theirs down to his. He CAN’T hide his affection for us and it makes us all feel super special, important and also, a little underserving of such unconditional love (I mean, we did go out for pizza WITHOUT him).

So one thing my kids are learning from him is how good it is to make others smile. To express your feelings and to celebrate the happy!

But that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

Nurturing skills

He is also teaching them so much more, including how to nurture.

He has my boys (they are aged six and eight) completely wrapped around his little paws. I mean, he’s cute, yes, but they actually ACT like dads with him. He’s their baby in so many ways.

They will cuddle him off to sleep, patting his bottom and stroking the soft hair under his chin as his eyes close. They always reassure him when he’s scared (“It’s OK baaabyyy, the thunder will go away. I’ll look after you,” all said in the softest sing-song voice). They snuggle him under a blanket on the couch on a cold night (or just any night). They also scold him, but in a very parenting manner when he’s naughty – a firm, “NO” for chewing on the rattan furniture AGAIN – but when he stops, they shower him in, “You’re a good boi” paise and love.

It’s all the good nurturing skills of a beautiful parent. So in a way, my dog has my kids in training for fatherhood (should they wish to become dads one day).

Then he’s also teaching them one of the most important things of all …

To feel empathy

The time I accidently shut the garden shed door on Toff because he’d followed me in there and I didn’t realise – for over an hour – had one son in tears. The one who is afraid of the dark. He knew what Toffee might of been feeling and so, he felt it too.

Often this empathy is revealed to me in happy ways also. Like when they play with him because HE wants to and not because they particularly feel like it. A ball has been dropped in their lap and the next minute they are off the couch and outside tossing it to him.

They are putting him, his feelings, before themselves and that is a truly beautiful thing.

And yes, responsibility

But they also have jobs when it comes to Toffee – they have to feed him of a morning (luckily for Toff, mum NEVER forgets to do this when they do), they also walk him to school and I walk him back. Plus, they are also responsible for trying to stop the barking at the postie, or whatever behaviour we are working on with treat-training – it’s a team effort.

All in all, though, they are learning way more than just responsibility by having a dog. And it’s very beautiful to observe. Heart singing in fact.

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