For the love of dog

A canine friend can help raise family activity levels and have a positive impact on the mental health of the whole family.

For the last two years our three kids have been asking us for a dog. We had been reluctant as we live in the country where there are sheep and we didn’t want to local farmers at our door if the dog misbehaved.

Also, we didn’t want a dog left on its own for long periods of time. Although the kids – ever eager to get a yes – suggested a little house dog that could travel with us.

We had many other questions to answer too: Which dog is gentle with kids?

  • Which dogs shed their coats a lot?
  • Which dogs would be expensive to groom?
  • If we got a puppy what responsibilities would that bring?
  • Who would mind him if we were away on holiday?
  • Could we take on the costs of vertinary care that comes with a pet?

After careful consideration we did take the plunge last summer and ‘Charlie’, a beautiful tiny Jack Russell puppy, came into our lives. Wow, what an impact he made on our home.

It was love at first sight for all of us. The kids would cuddle and kiss him first thing in the morning and last thing at night. When they were upset Charlie was there to offer endless unconditional love and sympathy. In fact my son said one day ‘When I am sad and crying, Charlie licks my tears away!’

Charlie has also got us moving more. From rolling on the ground, chasing, teaching him tricks and general play, he has single handedly (or single pawedely) got us all huffing and puffing more.

So over the past 6 months he became a really important member of the family, even if he did chew everyone’s shoes and underwear!

I’m a complete convert now and recommend to all families that if they can, bring a dog into the house.

Here are my top reasons for having a dog join the family:

1. Less screen time for kids

Screen time for the kids was dramatically and naturally reduced. There were so many indoor and outdoor games for the kids to play with Charlie that TV and other screen time became less and less.

2. The weekly family walk

We started to bring Charlie for lots of walks. It became a weekly habit that the family get wrapped up and go off to the local park for a walk. It is a fantastic opportunity to reconnect and talk with the kids. Chasing Charlie meant we all had to walk and run too!

We met and stopped to talk to many local people we had never met before and all because little Charlie expressed such delight at being in any other human company! Young and old stopped to have a chat and to pet Charlie and smile at his cuteness every single time we took him out for a walk!

3. Teaching responsibility

One of the rules that came with taking Charlie into our home was responsibility for his care and food. All of my 3 kids aged 8, 6 & 4 had to look after him and make sure his food was in his bowl and clean water. Plus he needed bathing, dental sticks and nails clipped, all of which the kids could do or help with.

It taught them some great lessons about caring for something beyond themselves.

4. Stress reduction

There is nothing better than a dog to listen to your point of view and not tell you what you what you need to hear! When you look into those beautiful sincere brown eyes, it is hard not to feel calmer immediately.

Studies have shown that people who own dogs often have healthier hearts due to reduced stress, oh and the extra walks help too! You are never lonely with a loyal dog by your side.

5. Less Allergies

Studies have also shown that children who grow up in a home with a dog have less allergies. These days anything we can do to protect our kid’s health is a bonus.

Writing this blog today brings a little tinge of sadness as Charlie, our little beautiful puppy, died suddenly this week. To say we were all devastated is an understatement, it was the kid’s first experience of bereavement.

We had a little funeral for him and we have a grave in the garden, complete with wooden cross and a plaque with his name on it! (Dog owners will understand the importance of this!)

So Charlie taught the kids something else this week: loss will happen in all of our lives. How us as parents approach the subject and tell them the story of how and why their beloved pet died is very important to them and their understanding of life, death, heaven and the afterlife (or whatever you believe).

My kids have also learned to talking openly about death, reliving memories and laughter and that it really is ok to cry when you are sad and feeling loss.

But the good news is that Charlie’s Mum is about to have some more puppies and all going well we will have a little Jack Russell puppy next Spring. The owner is going to allow our kids to pick one that grabs their hearts! Lots of walks, fun and play to look forward to.

So think carefully before you do it but for the whole family’s health I could not recommend it highly enough. For the love of ‘DOG’!

Image: Plucker via Compfight cc

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