Tag Archives: dog ownership

Could Dogs Be A Solution For Bullying?

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The scope of the problem

One in four Australian children, in years 4 to 9,  report being bullied every few weeks (Australian Covert Prevalence Bullying Study).  Older children are more susceptible to cyber bullying. Children who are bullied may grow up with low self-esteem, and the effects of bullying can haunt them for the rest of their lives.  For those of you who have had a difficult time growing up, you will know all too well the lingering effects of bullying.

Luckily there has been more focus on it in the media.  Various initiatives have been started to reduce bullying in schools.  Parents and teachers are more aware of the early warning signs that a child may be bullied.

How can dogs help bullied children?

I think dogs might be an under-used resource in helping children who have been bullied.  How can dogs help?

Have a look at Dogs of Character, a marvelous initiative in Texas.  Previously abused dogs, who have been rehabilitated, are brought in to school assemblies and spend time with children.  The aim is to help children understand that you can survive traumatic experiences and have a beautiful life afterwards.  For those children who are themselves the bullies, seeing an abused dog may lead them to reconsider their bullying.

How dogs can impact the social development of children

Caring for a dog may, in itself, be a healing experience for a bullied child.  The child that feels unloved, unwanted and criticised, finds in his canine companion unconditional love and acceptance. The child learns to love and learns what it is to be loved.  Another effect of dog ownership, if the child is adequately educated on responsible pet ownership, is that the child learns to treat animals with respect.  I think this is the first step in becoming an empathic person, who is sensitive to the needs of others.

A child psychologist in New Mexico published a paper in 2000, where he looked at the impact of dog ownership on 10-12 year olds.  He found a significant difference in empathy and self-esteem between the adolescents who owned a dog and those who did not.

Society is becoming increasingly narcissistic (just look at the abundance of reality TV shows).  I love to imagine a future where every child understands that he is not the centre of the world and that great good can come from treating your fellow earthlings with respect.

If you think your child may be bullied, visit Bullying No Way.

Have you found any positive changes in your child as a result of dog ownership?  Do you think dogs can help bullied children? What are your childhood memories of dogs?

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The Dog Delusion

Richard Dawkins wrote a bestselling book called The God Delusion.  I won’t get into that debate here, but I can talk about a sad modern-day problem:  the  ‘dog delusion’.

A delusion is a false belief which persists despite contradictory evidence.  And the dog delusion is the myth of the Perfect Dog (aka the ‘Disney Dog’).  The reason it matters is because, for those who suffer with this delusion, the reality of dog ownership can be a huge surprise.  When Lassie turns into Lawsuit,  the dog is on a one-way trip to the pound.

The Disney Dog

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Sweet, loyal, always by your side. Ready to defend you with his life if needs be.  Can understand your tears and your words.  Steps in when the school bully is after you.  Even the ‘naughty’ Disney dogs, such as Marley and Beethoven, are adorable  in their naughtiness.

The Real Dog

Toilet training issues, problem barking, separation anxiety, aggression. These are serious problems, and thankfully, can often be remedied.

Unless we begin to see dogs for what they are, rather than some idealised version of themselves, people will continue to turn in their dogs to shelters when the cute puppy becomes a naughty adolescent.  Let’s stop the madness.  Be honest about your challenges with your dogs and then seek the help you need.  That way, when your naughty pooch turns into a well-trained and sociable one, you will feel like you’ve ‘earned’ him.  We don’t return naughty children to the womb , so why is it so acceptable to return a difficult dog?

Did you have any surprises when you first got your dog? How did you meet the challenge?

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How A Dog Can Save Your Marriage

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I realise it can cut both ways.  I can imagine that, for some couples, the extra financial stress and responsibilities of dog ownership can hurt the relationship.

But my experience has been different. I have found 4 surprising things that improved in my marriage as a result of dog ownership:

  • I don’t like to fight with my husband in front of the dogs.  Call me crazy.  But I feel like they deserve better and I know it stresses them out.  So I swallow the waves of irritation and try to resolve the problem peacefully.  We all sleep better at night as a result.
  • I am much more patient with my husband.  I have learnt that, when you love something, be it canine or human, you need to accept it with all it’s quirks.  (Note: My husband will use this information against me the next time I nag him about fixing the roof).  I have learnt that dogs respond best to rewarding good behaviour and ignoring the bad.  Yelling at dogs does not work, and neither does yelling at your spouse.  Trust me on this one, I’ve learnt the hard way.
  • I am so much less high-maintenance 🙂 At the dog park once, my husband watched, almost in slow motion, as my dog rolled around in poo and then ran over to rub herself against me.  I was wearing my favorite dress.  He told me I was smelly but he still thought I was beautiful.  We laughed all the way to the dog groomer’s that day.  Being beautiful to  someone who cares about you is more about small moments of shared laughter than how you look.
  • My husband and I are very different.  We have completely different interests and hobbies.  He’s very private and I’m more ‘out there’.  He’s a ‘devil’s in the details’ kind of person and I’m more ‘big-picture’.  It all balances out in the end.  But through the dogs, we now have so many shared activities.  A simple, but very bonding, experience with your partner is a long walk with your dog through a lovely park, on a beautiful summer day. You see elderly couples walking their dogs and it’s such a sweet sight.

I will always be grateful that I had the good fortune to meet someone who is equally, if not more, passionate about animals than I am.

How has owning a dog affected your relationships?

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So You Wanna Get a Dog?

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OK, so here’s the deal.  As much as I adore dogs, they’re not for anyone.  And the last thing I want is for people to rescue a dog, only to have to return it further down the track.  So here’s my  list of pros and cons of dog ownership, with rose-tinted glasses securely off:

THE GOOD

  • After a rough day, there is nothing more therapeutic than seeing my dogs.  Their utter delight on my returning home is contagious.  My bad mood never stood a chance.
  • I became part of a community of dog-lovers – an instant bond at dog parks, parties or even at work. I can talk for hours about dogs (much to the dismay of some dear friends).
  • Watching my dogs play reminds me daily of the importance of remaining playful in my own life.
  • Walking my dog is my daily meditation. It gets me out in the sun and gives me a chance to take some deep breaths. It reminds me there is more, much more, to life than work.

THE BAD

  • ‘Date nights’  will take a bit more planning.  At least until your puppies are a bit older.  As soon as you walk out the door, the look of misery on your dog’s face will make you wanna turn back.  And at dinner, you’ll be wondering if your dog is OK.  Often, this is our own anxiety more than the dog’s, but there are various ways to make it better.  On the plus side, I think our shared love for our animals has made my relationship with my husband much stronger. I am proud of his kindness to animals and his big heart, more generally.

My dogs can happily stay on their own for a few hours now.  We achieved this by  gradually increasing the   time that we left the dogs alone, not fussing over them when we were leaving the house or returning, making sure the dogs had enough mental and physical exercise during the day and using some ‘environmental enrichment’ (kong toys, scattering treats around the house for them to find when we were gone, etc).  Getting a friend to dog-sit is another solution.

  • Travelling takes more planning too. You have to find a boarding facility, that you trust, that you’re not going to worry about when you go on holiday.   Long trips overseas quickly become expensive if you’re paying for boarding.  Again there are a variety of options, such as reputable pet-sitters.  Leaving your dogs behind can take a bit of getting used to, but once again,  it’s often the owners who worry more than the dogs.

THE UGLY

  • If you have a long-haired dog, prepare for hair, lots of it… think of it as a fine fur coat that lines your polished wooden floors, or a tasty addition to your cup of tea, or an adorable garland that finds it’s way to your best outfit.  Requirements:  powerful vacuum cleaner, lint remover, steely stomach, less attachment to possessions (eg brand new car) and a sense of humour to deal with the whole thing.   But seriously, I love grooming my dog; it’s so therapeutic and a bonding experience.  I’ve found this was the best way to reduce the amount of shedding.

What do YOU love or find challenging about having dogs?

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