We are not discovering anything if we talk about the important relationship that exists between humans and dogs, or about the important tasks carried out by this unique animal throughout the ages in different societies and cultures. But we might be able to find something new if we examine in detail one of the most beautiful and special relationships that exist between dogs and humans: the one between a dog and a child.
Children experience a torrent of feelings when they see, think of or listen to information about animals, especially about dogs. This special sensibility can put into motion a series of different strategies directed towards acquiring one. But, is it really good for a child to have a dog? How will this relationship affect his future preferences? And, what problems and advantages will it bring?
From the time he is one year old onwards, a child is able to appreciate the difference between a stuffed animal and a live one, owing to the animal’s natural movements. These movements can initially cause the child some anxiety, which will disappear gradually as contact continues.
Between the ages of two and four a real relationship consolidates: the child looks for his new and interesting friend, plays with him and finds a partner for his feelings and mischief. Unfortunately, this is the age when most accidents happen. The child turns directly and suddenly towards the dog, either his own or someone else’s, and shakes his hands and arms vigorously to get the dog’s attention. He is completely incapable of calculating the consequences of his actions. A child tries to explore and experiment, but is not aware of how much he can hurt or bother a dog when he touches or approaches it. The problem can be serious when the inability of the child to foresee the consequences of his actions is added to that of some parents, who are supposedly responsible for taking care of their child.
From age eleven on, the concept of “animal” is completely defined and joins a clear interest in nature. This is where the basis of the understanding between animals and adult individuals is established.
You should educate your children to know the needs, handling and respect due to their closest animal friends. They will grow up to be adults involved in their pet’s care and fully respectful of nature and the beings that are part of it.
Your children should receive clear information about how to own a pet at home, but in a way that is adapted to their age. You cannot make a young child fully responsible for all of his pet’s needs, although he should be given age-appropriate responsibilities.
A dog is not a brother and cannot be a substitute for the education given by the parents, but, if you can, listen to adults who have shared their childhood or their life with a dog. This experience will doubtless confirm that this animal is a child’s best friend.
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