Before my wife and I had our son, we adopted Tiki. Tiki is a Pit/Lab mix who we brought in just a month after we bought our house. He’s a good dog: it’s clear that he loves us deeply, and he mopes around the house when I leave. Plus, he’s energetic and excited, even as we work on to train him to listen a bit better.
When our son arrived, we found that there wasn’t some magical bonding that occurred. It’s been as much a learning experience as anything else.
1 – New relationships can take time to grow.
When we brought Bram home, I was half expecting this sort of moment where Tiki understood exactly what Bram was and that he’d immediately take to him. The exact opposite happened: the first moment we introduced the pair (with Bram sleeping), Tiki fled up the stairs, where he proceeded to mope for a couple of days. He got over that, but there was something that we learned: dogs can get jealous or worried about the intense attention that another member of the household, especially a baby, gets.
The two are firm friends now: Bram crawls all over Tiki, who doesn’t seem to care, or enjoys the attention from a third person. Once Bram learned to hand over food that Tiki liked, he came around a bit more.
2 – Taking care of a dog teaches responsibility.
Want a practical lesson in responsibility? A dog needs human interaction: otherwise, they can’t eat, go outside or take care of themselves. We’ve started teaching Bram how to feed the dog, with the idea that it’s a way to drive home the importance of this one particular chore. Once he’s big enough, he’ll learn how to walk the dog.
3 – Generosity is surprisingly rewarding.
More than just responsibility, though, there’s good things to teach one’s child when it comes to sharing and being generous: with your time to play, attention, or just a treat when he’s good.
4 – It’s ok to take your time in new situations.
Recently, while playing at a local dog park with a friend, Bram got to meet another dog who was much smaller than Tiki. What surprised me was how nervous Bram was around the newcomer. While he was smaller, she was faster, and fairly interested in him. It’s good to remember that even when children are familiar with animals, their relative sizes are intimidating: these are animals that move quickly, can be loud and can come up to a child before one’s ready. It’s good to let both animal and child come to terms with one another on their own time, rather than forcing the point.
5 – Getting knocked down isn’t a catastrophe.
He’s a 30 lbs kid, and Tiki weighs twice that. When the dog is rocketing around the kid, playing with a ball, some collisions are inevitable, and they’re not catastrophes. Slowly, Bram has begun to learn that Tiki is bigger than he is and that he tends to play rough with me. At the same time, Tiki has learned to be a bit more careful with Bram.
Children are durable, and there’s a bit of a learning experience here: Bram’s not afraid of a larger animal, especially one that he’s known since birth.
6 – There’s value to consistent companionship.
Tiki is more than a family pet to Bram: he’s a constant companion, a constant element of his life who is just there for him. That’s a bond that will grow for years to come.
7 – A dog is an invaluable friend.
Bram is two, and he’s known Tiki for his entire life, along with our two cats, Arthur and Merlin. He knows each by name, and can list off a whole slew of characteristics for each. What gets me every time though is catching Bram talking to Tiki. He’ll ask Tiki questions, pet him, and tell him that he’s a good dog; he’ll throw a ball or stick, or will light up when we come home after a long day.