How Children Learn From Dogs
A relationship with a well-trained dog can teach a child
However, some important points need to be considered before introducing a pet to small children.
The child must be old enough to respect the dog’s space and to not accidentally hurt him by pulling fur etc. Never leave a child and dog unsupervised no matter how much you feel you know your dog. Animals are unpredictable, accidents happen. Also, a young child can’t understand a dogs behaviour and body language like an adult can.
Dogs have a pack mentality. Usually, they would consider an adult in the family the pack leader, with children lower down the family hierarchy. A dog may perceive a child to be on the same level, or even lower in the pack order, as himself. This might mean that the dog has difficulty taking instruction from a child.
Teach the child to stroke gently, not to go up close to the face and not to poke ears and eyes. Older children can be shown how to help with feeding and to offer a treat. They need to be taught to never approach strange dogs, no matter how cute.
Matt Cassels researched the relationships between children and their pets. He found that not only would a child turn to his pet for support in times of adversity, but he would do so more than he would turn to a sibling. The study also demonstrated that children who had strong relationships with a pet had better pro-social skills such as helping, sharing and cooperating than their peers.
We all remember our first pets and look back fondly on times spent together. Sometimes the loss of a pet can be a child’s first experience of death and grieving, it is a valuable lesson about the circle of life.
Here is my first ever dog, her name was Dinky.
What memories do you have about your first pet?