Dogs have a role in the family circle

November 16, 2004

A group of dog lovers were discussing the various activities available for pet dogs. This reminded me of a column I wrote back in 1992. So, with a few changes here and there, I will repeat it. The subject then was the pros and cons of owning pets.

The majority of the group in 1992 said that they had a dog because their parents had a dog. They felt "that all families should have a dog as a pet."

Then, when I asked what the dog's role was in the family circle, there was silence. No one had an answer that they felt they wanted to share.

Eventually one person admitted that the family pet was "just there," it walked around the house when the adult humans were around, it was fed, watered and taken to the veterinarian once a year, but, technically, it was "just a pet."


Finally I was asked the question, "What do you think family pets should do?" And my trouble was keeping the answer short.

Dogs are the only domestic species, other than humans, that are adaptable enough to learn appropriate responses to human emotions.

According to research studies, family pets have a definite role. They provide unquestioning love, understanding, a shoulder to cry on and something with which to share joy. However, dogs must have the opportunity to learn how human emotions are expressed. Thus keeping the animal outside all the time, does not give the dog the needed contact to be able to respond correctly.

Because of the animal's adaptability, training a dog can teach a young person responsibility, patience, and perseverance. In this day of using motivation instead of force, the young person learns essential parenting skills. Daily caring for thefamily pet can also be a learning experience for young people, even if they are assisted by their parents from day to day.

Adults can also learn from dogs. In the state of Washington, there is a group of dog lovers who take their prisons where the inmates learn to care for them and train them. As one inmate said, "If the dog assigned to me accepts me, I can't be that bad!" These people are learning both job and social skills.

Dogs can inspire their owners to get out and mingle with others. One of my friends regularly takes her three dogs to nursing homes to entertain the residents. Other friends like the outdoors and enjoy training their dogs to track. Tracking is usually practiced with a group of like minded dog owners since there has to be a track layer and a "judge" or instructor as well as the other dogs and handlers. While the track is being laid or aged, the rest of the group socializes.

Agility is another activity that allows for socializing. While one dog and handler run the course, the other members watch, comment and make plans for the future.

Aren't dogs wonderful!|5/6/04|***

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