By Cassie Galasetti
As the saying goes, a dog is a man’s best friend. Dogs offer a special kind of companionship; they’re loyal, eager to please and give an all-around sense of comfort. It’s safe to say a dog is much more than a best friend; a dog is an integral part of the family.
If you grew up around a pet, you may have a paw up and find it easier to see and understand how your family dog can teach you about parenting. Whether you’re newly married and thinking about having a child or already married with four kids, there are endless ways you can learn from your pooch.
For those about to embark on parenthood, there have been many studies that show owning a pet is a good way to prepare for future parental duties. Kyra A. Becker, LCSW, BCD, clinical supervisor/assistant director of NJ Center for the Healing Arts on Broad Street in Red Bank said, “I have found that getting an animal like a pet dog is what a couple may do to support emerging parental instincts between them. A pet provides an intra-familial avenue to observe each other’s parenting abilities. Additionally, getting a dog is a precursor to settling into another stage of life that includes responsibility to another being.”
Responsibility is probably one of the most obvious and important traits you can learn. From feeding your dog to cleaning up after it, there are various day-to-day tasks that can be spread out among every member of your family to instill the skills of responsibility. This starts with the parent. Even when you’re having a busy day, it’s important to find time to for walking, feeding, grooming and playing with your dog. By setting a good example, you start to impact children in a positive way. With repetition and positive reinforcement, children start to notice these tasks and follow your lead. These responsibilities can be as simple as helping to put away pet toys or adding water to the dog’s bowl.
“Certainly responsibility and nurturing of a pet are by far the most that one learns from having a pet,” said Becker. “Included into the responsibility of owning a pet is feeding, walking or cleaning litters boxes and overall care, both physical and emotional. In exchange for the care is returned love and presence by the pet.”
Love, kindness and compassion are also positive elements your family dog can teach you, especially if you adopt. “Saving an animal’s life is one of the most kind, gratifying and amazing things you can do,” said Mary Beth Tkach, president of Rescue Ridge, a Monmouth County pet organization that rescues cats, dogs, horses and even pigs in the area. “Over the years, I’ve seen so many family’s lives change for the better after adopting a pet.”
Tkach adds, “Caring for an adoptable pet can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, not to mention all of the physical and emotional benefits you get each day from the unconditional love your pet gives you.” Kindness, compassion and unconditional love are all things that are vital to good parenting.
An important part of raising a child or pet is patience. If you’ve had more than one dog in your lifetime, you know that no two dogs are alike. They have different personalities; some need more care than others, much like the people in our lives. As a dog owner it is important to train your dog and that can take time and a lot of patience. Since tricks and good behavior are things they need to be taught, the pet and the family reap the benefits of learning patience and perseverance to reach your pet’s goals.
Family bonding is also a great benefit to having a family pet. From sharing the feeding and cleaning responsibilities to playing with your dog at the park, your pet can bring family members closer together through a shared love. This also associates with being a great social “icebreaker” when you’re in public. Other dog lovers may approach you asking questions about your dog, providing an avenue to work on social skills. This cannot only benefit your children, but also your own parenting skills. You may even become friends with more dog owners especially on walks or visits to the park.
When it comes to parenthood, owning a dog is not only a tool for teaching you many facets of parenting but can provide a loving household. Some even say, how you raise a dog will predict how you’ll be a parent.
This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.