October 1st was National Black Dog Day… At least according to one Facebook post I saw, so it must be true right? Well it got me thinking about our black dog, who also happens to be our first child, or “practice kid” as my husband referred to him the other day.
Now that we have human kids, I’m glad that we also have our fur baby around to assist in the child rearing. Not only that, our kids are around other dog family members ranging from puppy to old every single day. There are so many lessons that raising both together bring to the table and provide everyone in the family. Some of these lessons are practical, some are emotional, and some are behavioral.
Even though I’m listing both pros and cons below, the pros far outweigh the cons. And in the five years I’ve been raising kids (even though it’s only two, not like a gaggle or anything), not once have I wondered or cared to know what parenting without Gibson (our dog) would be like. In fact the thought kind of makes me want to ugly cry.
Pros and Cons to Having Dogs with Kids:
1. They teach kindness and gentleness
This is one of the first lessons you will need to teach your baby when being around your dog – “Gentle” – we have to say that a lot. But then they get it, and they start to understand what “gentle” means. Then soon you will find your little one being kinder and gentler to the dog than any human around.
It’s amazing how you can tell your 1 year old to pet the dog more gently, and he will. But you can tell that same 1 year old to stop pulling his sister’s hair, and he only pulls it harder.
2. They make amazing Halloween costume partners
I mean seriously, who wouldn’t want a pumpkin patch themed Halloween costume?
3. They help build immune systems
There is so much research out there that supports the fact that pets create stronger immune systems, and kids raised with pets have fewer allergies and issues lower instances of asthma. (Please remember I’m not a doctor, just going by what I’ve read off the interwebs and experienced first hand with my dog and two babes.)
4. They encourage responsibility
Time to start making a chore chart? “Feed the dog” is a super easy task for a child to accomplish and feel good about contributing to the family. We also get the kids involved in making homemade dog cookies, which is fun.Plus, it’s not like “Clean your room”, where if it doesn’t happen, oh well… the dog’s gotta eat!
5. They eat everything – Pro
Speaking of eating, this might be one of the greatest benefits of raising kids while having a dog around. I’m amazed our dog isn’t 100 pounds heavier because of all the thrown food and spilled milk he cleans up off the floor for us. Even the baby knows to call for him if something falls on the floor.
6. They eat everything – Con
On the flip side, your kid turns their back on their snack or meal for one second… BOOM it disappears like it was never there. We always know when the kids never actually finished their plates because they are a little too clean, licked clean.
7. They get the family outside
There’s no better family time than heading outside on a beautiful day to play fetch, run around the yard, go for a walk, or just play with the dog. It makes them happy. It invokes inevitable giggles from the kids. It forces us to get active even if we’re not feeling like it. It’s a win-win all around.
8. They are protectors
If there’s one thing every dog I’ve ever known had in common, they can sense when a person is a block away, headed to your house, about to come knock on your door, or heaven forbid just walk on the sidewalk, somewhere in the near vicinity. Our dog was like that before. Then we had our first baby, and LOOK OUT! He even barks at us when we go to kiss the kids.
9. They teach lessons in life
Everything mentioned in this post, as well as everything not mentioned in this post, will contribute to your children as human beings and how they interact with others as adults. When dogs are a part of the environment in which we live, it’s a better environment for everyone.
10. They teach lessons in death
This is the difficult one, probably one of the toughest lessons to figure out how to teach a child. Bereavement is such a hard concept to grasp, and is probably the one reason I would ever consider not having a pet, because I never want to lose a pet.
We had very close friends go through this with their two little girls and their sweet old dog, and I realized it made those kids much more emotionally mature than kids who hadn’t experienced the unfortunate loss of a pet. Since then, our kids have been around for the passing of their grandparents’ dogs. And as sad as it is, I feel they (well, the older one at least) have a much better grasp of the concept of life and death.
11. They make us all better people
I began writing this with the intent to give a well rounded pro vs. con view of what it’s like to raise kids while having dogs around. As I look back, I feel like even the “cons” are actually “pros” in terms of making us all better people. So don’t be afraid to tackle one if you have the other. They BOTH have their pros and cons!