• Jason Downes

38/52: This dog is helping us raise top-notch kids


In late March, our family was lucky enough to get two puppies who are now almost fully-grown Standard Poodles. These two new additions to our family, Chip (the gentleman) and Cookie (the excited teen), have already taught our family so much and allowed our kids the opportunity to develop some impressive, and highly-useful, life skills.


This week's photo, 'Frame 38', is a guest entry of Chip taken by one of my daughters (who borrowed my phone and took a series of photos of our dogs playing dress-ups) and was only discovered well after the event while I was searching for a photo for this blog! It's a picture of a dog who is loved, who is very tolerant, and who taught my daughter that if she can wait long enough, he'll eventually fall asleep. In addition to patience, Masters Chip & Cookie have already taught our kids a few other essential life skills:


Consistency & Tenacity: Training a dog to sit, stay or follow a particular instruction is not only a nice party trick, but its something that can potentially become a life-saving skill for your pet (especially around traffic). To get there though requires consistency in the use of words, signals and the contexts in which these commands are used. If you're not consistent, dogs don't get it and if you give up too fast, nothing is learnt. Our daughters haven't exactly applied this straight to their home-schooling methodology by the way, but they absolutely get why it's so important to be consistent with the dogs!


Empathy: Not everyone likes dogs and we respect that. We love to walk our boys off-lead or have them with us for family picnics off-lead at the park. The proviso is, so long as they don't annoy or scare other people and animals. Our kids now look out for small children, other dogs and people who might be a bit skittish of animals. I hear both our 10-year old and 6-year old ask people "Are you okay if we let them off their leads?" They genuinely identify and respect the feelings of others.


Leadership: We're in a pack and we've developed a system of rules for the animals to follow. Our children observe how we apply the rules, how we guide the dogs, reward and occasionally discipline them. They contribute to the development of this system and show a good understanding of why the rules are in place and how to apply them. In turn, they get a sense of authority and enjoy leading the dogs on how to be good dogs.


Responsibility: Owning a pet is not just about posting photos of your dogs with sunglasses to social media! Feeding, grooming and exercising an animal is an essential part of the responsibilities all pet owners have, including kids!


Self-esteem: Dogs not only reward you when you teach them tricks, they also have a seemingly unlimited capacity to love you. As our puppies grow into dogs, our kids are growing in confidence and developing an appreciation of how important they are to their pets.


Resilience: A year before getting our puppies, we had two dogs die within a short space of one another. It's a terrible time when any family loses a pet but it helps us to deal with adversity and to develop the important life skill of dealing with loss.


A photograph of a dog in a pair of sunnies could be an easy set up for a cheap laugh. Behind this still frame, however, is the story of two children who are growing into wonderful people and learning so many of life's important skills from their dogs, Chip and Cookie.

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