The family dog has taught us a variety of life lessons, including how to communicate better as humans.
Owning a pet has been a journey that has taken the better part of a decade.
A year into owning a dog — or rather being the caretaker of one — I’m sold on the adage that dogs are “man’s best friend.”
Fish were tried, but died. Cats? We’ve been there and done that. The conclusion? Cats are best left to grandma.
Birds carry the same story as fish. Mice? Not a chance.
A dog, though, takes dad life, and the household with it, on a whole new adventure.
One year in and we have one of nature’s best alarm clocks. His breed loves to corral. If we are not on the same channel, come bark, snap, or snarl, he lets us know about it.
As prepared as we were for owning a dog, I was not prepared to be walked, instead of doing the walking.
Even with all his training, I think, at times, we are the ones being trained.
Our dog-life journey has been one long lesson in caring for something, and being cared for by that something in return.
For example, these lessons are often deep, beginning with the fact that dogs are not to be confused with plush toys.
The kids have come to understand boundaries better. They are learning to put more dad and mum homeschool theory and experience into practice.
Affection has to respect personal space, and there are real-life consequences for not giving room in this realm of relationship. Sometimes these consequences are painful.
In sum, our dog is teaching us, more than we’ve taught it.
Because I have witnessed the dog take ownership of its owner, I’d have to add to the adage: Man is a dog’s best friend, whether he wants to be or not.
Another example of this canine education is listening. We don’t give in to demands, but we do our best to listen and accommodate.
PsychCentralclaims that ‘of all messages, only 7% is verbal (words only), 38% is vocal (tone of voice, intonation, and other sounds), and 55% is through nonverbal (no words) forms of communications.’
In other words, body language makes up to 93% of total communication.
‘Body language is an external signal of a person’s inner emotional state. Body language is the story our bodies tell about how we think and feel… Nonverbal messages are so important for success in life that leaders in many fields even hire personal body language experts to help them communicate better without words.’
‘Becoming a perceptive observer of nonverbal communication takes paying careful attention to subtle movements, such as tilts of the head, rolls of the eye, or small shifts of the mouth. Watching someone’s face or body for subtle movements can help you more closely tune into what they may knowingly or unknowingly be expressing.’
Honing body language skills has been the larger, unexpected part of our dog-life education.
The many problems we have encountered as a family with a dog fall back on us, not on him.
The course correction we undertook came about after identifying our flawed approach.
Simply put: we were not listening to him properly.
We’ve learned the hard way that cross-species miscommunications have unintended ramifications.
If he bit someone, there was usually a reason for doing so.
Listening to his body language, and allowing him to show affection, instead of forcing affection onto him has remedied the “malfunction.”
Humility & Perseverance
Identifying the problem has taught our kids two priceless life lessons:
First, listen. Be humble. Reflect on whether the problem is within, not without. This borrows from the words of Jesus: “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)
Second, don’t quit. Work the problem. Make corrections.
These lessons go deep. They impact more than how our dog communicates to us, and we communicate to him.
They influence the very core of how we communicate, and are communicated to.
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.