Fostering in children kindness and respect toward dogs is one of the most useful ways to change people’s actions and attitudes toward all animals.
While they are very young, children enjoy being surrounded by animal toys, characters and images. It’s vital kids grow up respecting animals and as research shows, empathy is a learned behaviour. Childhood is a perfect time to stimulate and nurture a lifelong empathy for all living creatures. It is best taught through real experience.
Dogs and children can be great friends and here are four practical ways we can help youngsters be caring companions:
Teach By Example
The easiest way to teach kindness is to lead by example. Adopting peaceful, considerate behaviour towards dogs and other animals is a powerful lesson children can learn from. We should all be aware of the language and tone of voice we use, both to refer to dogs, but also around children and dogs. We can teach children that there’s never any need to refer to dogs in unkind terms, or to call them unpleasant names. If we hear others doing so, we should speak up and tell youngsters it’s wrong to yell at dogs, demean them, call them stupid, or other unkind things.
We can show respect to dogs by gentle handling, by being patient and never irritable with them and not allowing kids to be either.
Read and Discuss Books Together
Choose books for your children which show dogs and other animals to have feelings. Where possible, read together and discuss the stories and issues which arise, to help children know that animals share many of the emotions humans do. By absorbing and understanding this, it helps to develop empathy and compassion, qualities that will last a lifetime. There are lots of great children’s books, like Charlotte’s Web, Black Beauty, War Horse, Watership Down and Saving Maya.
Support Your Local Shelter
This can take many forms, the most eye-opening for children is to visit and see dogs and other animals in a shelter environment. Combine any visit with doing something useful for the shelter, like donating items such as food, blankets, collars, leads. Getting your child involved beforehand by collecting or hand-making items to donate engages them in the whole process.
When visiting, use the opportunity to talk to your children about why dogs end up in rescue, and why adopting a pet is a great way to help animals.
Some shelters have opportunities for walking the dogs in their care. If this is an option, this is an ideal thing to do as dogs and children love to walk together.
Support any local fundraising events run by shelters or animal welfare groups by taking your children along, or offering to make posters together to promote the events.
Include Your Dog In Family Life
If you have a dog, be sure to include him or her in your family life as much as possible. Plan regular activities that involve and are suitable for your dog and children to do together. Teach them that a dog needs, and deserves to be a welcome part of your lives, they’re not animals that like to be excluded from daily activities. Encourage children to offer loving, regular companionship, teaching them that dogs can feel lonely if left out or ignored.
Give your children responsibility for doing age-appropriate regular caring things like brushing, feeding, and filling water bowls. Teaching them that dogs are wholly dependent on us for meeting their needs such as food, water, comfort is a valuable way to develop in children a lasting sense of kind responsibility.
Janetta Harvey is a writer and commentator on the international puppy breeding industry. She’s author of three books: Saving Susie-Belle and Saving One More for adults and her latest, Saving Maya for young readers. All are based on the lives of her dogs, rescued from large scale breeding facilities. Janetta is a strong advocate for pet adoption, especially seniors and her writing promotes this to all ages.
Janetta lives with her husband Michel, and their three dogs in England and France.
www.janettaharvey.com | Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusieBSchnauzer | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Susie-Belle-Schnauzer-705830289434936 | Instagram: https://instagram.com/sassyschnauzersisters/