One of the best things you can do for your children is have a dog around the house. I know getting a pet is a momentous decision. And I wrote a post about when not to get a dog home, dismayed as I was with the behaviour of many pet owners. But, if you can give them the time and energy especially in the first year to housebreak them and train them, then they will be very valuable companion to you for life. And the best part is even your little kids will get to raise a puppy and be responsible about its food, walk and emotional needs. When we got Coco home, the younger boy was just 3 years old and mischievous as hell. I was worried about how he would handle a pet. But they took to each other like fish to water.

The younger son is the one Coco is the most protective about. Perhaps he saw in him a little child. And he is the one who launches on Coco smothering him with hugs and kisses. As they spent their childhoods together, I saw how Gautam became more clued in to animals, dogs and pets. His emotional quotient became high. I saw him being mindful and sensitive about how people treat dogs especially strays.

dog helps raise empathetic kids

Even though I am a dog lover, have been since childhood, I have always been wary of stray dogs. It is not that I change the course of my path if I chance upon one, but I would be watchful around them. Also, I thought of them as a nuisance. They bark without any provocation. When in packs, they chase kids and vehicles. In short, I did not care much for them. Till my younger son showed me otherwise.

dog helps raise empathetic kids

Unlike me, his love extends to the strays as well. When we go for our walks, he is the one who attracts stray dogs who come wagging their tails with a shine in their eyes. We often have long conversations about how difficult life is for the strays with no one to care for them. They have to fend for every meal and no one to look after them when they are sick or injured. Many people are cruel to them because they can be. And we have a unique brand of people in India who will feed them so that they can protect their house but provide them nothing else.

dog helps raise empathetic kids

I know you would say at least they are feeding them. Sure, but some of these strays become a nuisance when they are encouraged by these home owners to be aggressive towards others. I have seen quite a few such people in the gated community where I live. These strays also growl and bark at other pet dogs who do nothing to them. Anyway, so as Gautam started warming up to these stray dogs, and I saw how they reciprocated his love, my attitude towards the streeties starting softening as well.

We now keep biscuit packets in our car to give to the strays when we go shopping or when we see a particularly hungry looking stray dog. And this thought came from Gautam. Not only that, the other day he shared a dream of his with me. When he grows up he wants to open a shelter for stray dogs. He feels very sad to see so many of them in a state of utter misery and unhappiness. That really made me feel happy and proud. I do hope that one day he gets to achieve his dream.

And you know we have about 10 kids who come home every evening to play with Coco. Each one complains that their parent will not let them have one, and we welcome them. They take Coco running, play with him and also pick up his poop after seeing us do that for a few days. And parents worry that their kids are not responsible! Coco in turn rewards them with multiple hugs, licks and jumps.

dog helps raise empathetic kids

Getting a dog home will help your child:

Develop Empathy:

Dogs only communicate with body language and non-verbal cues, and kids really start reading them well. This helps them in the real world with people as they become more attuned to understanding what others are saying even without verbal cues. Also kids are drawn out from their self-absorbed worlds when they have to care for a dog. What does the dog need, and sometimes they put their needs above their own.

Reducing Stress:

Our kids are dealing with a lot of stress at each phase in their lives, and having a dog at home is a natural de-stresser. When your pet comes and puts his head in your lap or looks at you with those mopey eyes, your heart melts and you immediately feel a rush of happiness. I’ve experienced it so many times and so have the kids. A dog always puts you ahead of himself, and this selfless love invokes feelings of gratitude, love and joy. These are wonderful for kids.

Makes Them Responsible:

When the younger boy was a baby, he was precocious. I never thought he could take care of Coco the way he does now. From playing with him to grooming him, taking him out, picking up his poop to giving his food, there is nothing that he won’t do. In essence, having a pet makes kids take on responsibilities happily. I see the same in other children who come home to play with Coco. If their parents had any doubt if their kids could care for a dog, they should come and watch them.

Increases their self esteem:

A dog loves you unconditionally unlike your parents, siblings and friends. It is immensely satisfying to see how a dog welcomes you home or makes everything about you when you are with them. Their undivided attention and love can make you get over feelings of not belonging or not being loved. Children feel an immense pride because the dog loves them. I notice in kids telling each other, “He really loves me! See how he wags his tail!”

Helps Introverts

Introverts find it harder to have very close friends or often express their emotions. But it is easiest to talk to your pet or tell him that you love him. I’ve seen the grumpiest of individuals open up when they are around a dog. A dog encourages you to automatically talk and then nods sagely and gives you undivided attention. No wonder dogs are used for therapy.

dog helps raise empathetic kids

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dog helps raise empathetic kids

Thanks to Coco and Gautam, our circle of love is expanding. These days I even smile and give the strays a friendly look. And remembering Gautam’s advice, I seek out strays and feed them. If we can’t care for all of them, at least let us help them in whatever small way we can. Gautam has showed me a path to empathy for these strays. Who says children don’t make excellent teachers?

Pinned pic courtesy By ESB Professional on Shutterstock

Linking to #TweensTeensBeyond linky

19 Thoughts on “How Getting a Dog Will Help You Raise Empathetic Kids

  1. I so so so agree with this post, Rachna!
    Growing up with Chikoo did that to my nephew when he was just a few days old baby. They would sleep on the same bed–to the utter astonishment of other people–and Chikoo used to be so protective of Parth. As Parth grew, he too became very protective of Chikoo and would do everything to make sure Chikoo was comfortable in his old age. Chikoo’s passing hit him hard, but now he showers all that love on the strays. He simply loves hugging them and petting them and as much as I tell him that he needs to be careful around stray dogs, he just goes ahead and showers them with his love. And, that is just what he gets in return from his canine buddies. We feed them everyday and whenever we do so, we, esp Parth feels so satisfied. Each time he sees a puppy, he says, “Let’s take this guy home na!” He is such a sensitive kid and understands not just animals, but humans too…that’s quite a thing for a 9 yo!

    Dogs do that to people, isn’t it? They bring out the ‘human’ in you–the kind God wanted us to be!

    • Your last lines really sums up the post. They do bring out the best kind of human in all of us. So happy for Parth. The streeties you shared the pic of, are they his friends?

      I totally get you. I tell Gautam to be careful of the strays too, but I’ve seen his connect and love with them. I guess love begets love.

  2. OMG.. This is so tempting me to get a dog. But my only grouse is a lack of time on our part to take care of the pet.

    • You do need time to give to the dog. So if you are really hard pressed for time then it does not make sense. But if you can make time, getting a dog home will reward you in very unexpected ways.

  3. Having pets at home is therapeutic for sure! They not bring you joy and give you unconditional love, they are also sensitive to your moods and health and give you extra TLC when they sense you need it!

  4. That first picture is so so adorable. I want to squish them both together. And this, when I’m not an animal lover. But the affection in the picture is warm and spontaneous. Of late the thought of having a pet has started coming to me. Only, I’m scared of the responsibility, considering there is no backup for me. Oh and I hate dog-hair and the smell. Sigh! Almost everyone in my family has a dog and don’t seem to notice the hair or the smell so I guess it’s something gets used to.
    Oh and I’m with you on the strays. I hate people who feed them and let them be.

    • I have so many pictures of them that I was wondering which ones to put up. Both of them are always sprawled around Coco. 🙂 I know of so many parents who are scared of dogs, and I have never really understood it. I get the responsibility part, but if you can get the kids to pitch in it is much easier. First year of the puppy’s life is challenging though, especially housebreaking them and training them. Just like a human baby. Subsequently, they become so much easier to handle. Of course, the responsibility is always there. For us, traveling is the biggest pain point. It breaks our heart to leave him at a kennel. Hence we have started taking so many road trips where he can come along.

      Can you believe it that I hated the smell too when Coco came. It needed a bit getting used to, and now I call it basmati smell. 🙂 The hair is a nuisance because they shed a lot. As a rule. we don’t allow him on sofas and beds and the kitchen as well. But yes, one has to be comfortable with these issues before bringing a dog home. I just know that what I do for Coco is nothing compared to what he has given us in return!

  5. I grew up with a pet and that was one of the best times of my life. I can a friend and unconditional love and he helped me so much in understanding myself better. His death left a big void and I almost slipped into depression after that. At 13, I felt lost and empty. Till date I cannot bring myself to get another dog at home just with the fear of losing it one day. I’m not sure if I can deal with that again. Same with the husband, he has been through the same thing.

    But, my husband and I have decided on one thing. If ever we decide to have kids in the future, we’ll first have dogs. We want kids to grow up around dogs to understand life better. Hopefully both of us will have the emotional strength to deal with it then.

    • I completely get you, Soumya. Losing a pet leaves a huge void in one’s life. Sadly, they have very short lives. I had one in college. He died in 2005. But then after getting married, I was separated from him as he stayed behind at my parents’ place. His death was somehow bearable perhaps. That said, I can’t tell you how much Coco has helped with my emotional health and continues to do so. And his impact on the kids is outstanding. And just for that it is worth bringing a dog home. Hugs about your pet. I get your loss! I think you can do it. Give it a try!

  6. I thought I left a comment but not sure where it went.
    The pictures of your son with Coco are absolutely adorable. I can understand how exciting it must be for the neighborhood kids to play with Coco. We always had a dog around while growing up. And I agree that it plays an important role in inculcating love, empathy and responsibility in kids. We could never imagine sleeping without feeding our dog… Or leaving him out in open cold. These little things build the personality of the kids.
    Coco is extremely lucky to have found a loving family like yours.

  7. Shailaja Vishwanath on January 24, 2019 at 8:02 am said:

    Such a heartwarming read, Rachna and I do agree with every single point here, especially the bit about being empathetic, kind and compassionate. I’ve also seen how introverted kids are completely at ease with animals.

    Gy loves animals too and has grown up watching her grandfather feed strays that came regularly to their home.

    But one of the main reasons we don’t have a dog is because we live in an apartment. V grew up with two dogs but they had a huge open garden and a large independent home where the dogs could run free. In his and my opinion, that much is necessary for a dog to thrive and be healthy.

    If circumstances were different, I would definitely consider having a dog. Since Gy is also an only child, I know she would cherish the company and be responsible for the pet as well.

    • Thank you, Shailaja. Oh yes, I remember that cheerful stray at your in-laws. He came with us till the gate. Such a cutie!

      You know you can easily keep a dog in a apartment. Any of the smaller breeds like terriers, beagle etc. do very well in apartments. A number of my friends have them. Even larger dogs like Coco can do well in a reasonable sized apartment as long as you take them for a walk. Best companions for physical activity both for kids and adults. ? I can totally see Gy loving having a dog at home.

  8. Agree with each and everything that you have mentioned here. A pet dog is the best gift you can give to your child. Both KG and AG LOVE dogs. And as you mentioned, both my boys love stray dogs too, in fact if there’s a group of people on a street, the strays they just come to them. I love dogs but I am paranoid about cleanliness, so while we had them at our farm, home is something that I am not open to as of now. But I do truly believe that dogs change our lives.

  9. MY parents should have read this when I was a kid. I remember begging them for years to have a pet but they wouldn’t allow it. The strays on the street became my ‘pets’ as a result! Great reasons there for anyone who wants to convince their parents to let them have pets.

    • Thank you, Sanch. I know bringing up a pet is really hard work, but if the child is really responsible, there is no reason why parents shouldn’t get a pet home. The pros outweigh the cons many times over.

  10. I am not a great dog lover and both my teens have asked us for a dog for many years but I have always said no for the completely selfish reason – that I would be the one doing the majority of the work. There have been times when I have been tempted but am always put off by friends who are dog owners and their constant need to get back for the dog or to find someone to look after it. This is a great post for those considering it Rachna more seriously than me and highlights the many benefits of which there are no doubt many. Perhaps I made the wrong decision after all. Thanks for sharing this post with us . #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. We were desperate for a dog when we were kids and now my daughter is the same. We did the halfway house and got a rabbit. It’s been almost three years and you would think it was my husband’s pet. She doesn’t go near it. Fearful the same will happen with the dog! My arm is constantly being twisted with pictures of gorgeous fluffy looking puppies! Will I cave in!? Thanks for sharing your post with #tweensteensbeyond

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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