If you have both children and a dog, you will probably be keen to get your children involved in caring for your dog when they are old enough to start learning about responsibility, and begin to build the foundations of a lifelong love of dogs and respect for both animals in general, and man’s best friend in particular.
Keeping things interesting and making learning fun is half the battle when trying to engage children’s minds and get them enthused about a subject, and appealing to children’s appetite for the unusual or intriguing can go a long way towards achieving your goals! With this in mind, here is a list of ten fun facts about dogs and a little additional background information on them to get you started, written with children in mind.
1. Puppies are born blind, deaf and without teeth
Puppies’ eyes are sealed shut at birth, and only open when they are around ten to fourteen days old. Their hearing will develop at around eighteen days old, while their first set of teeth will not begin to develop until they are at least six weeks old! Human babies are able to see and hear from birth, although they too do not develop their teeth until they are older!
2. Dogs are descended from wolves
The domestic dog descended from the grey wolf, which is native to Europe, North America and Asia. The gradual domestication of wolves into the dogs that we share our homes with today started many years ago; around 100,000 years ago, to be precise! Dogs are a sub-species of the grey wolf; meaning that the grey wolf still exists in its natural form in the wild today as well.
3. Man’s best friend
Dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend,” which is a reference to the popularity of dogs as pets and companion animals. It is believed that the phrase originated as part of a courtroom speech in Missouri, America, in 1870, in a case where a farmer sued his neighbour over the shooting of his dog.
4. Dogs in space
The very first live animal to go into space was not an astronaut, but actually a dog! Laika, a Russian dog, orbited the earth in the Russian spacecraft Sputnik in 1957. One of Laika’s puppies, Pushnika, later had a litter of her own with a terrier named Charlie, which belonged to the American president John F. Kennedy!
5. Dogs and coat colour development
Some dogs, such as the Dalmatian and the Airedale terrier, are born all one colour at birth; white in the case of Dalmatians, and black in the case of the Airedale. Only as they start to grow and develop after birth does their adult coat colour develop; black spotted in the case of the Dalmatian and a mixture of grey, black and tan for the Airedale!
6. Dogs and smiling
You might think that smiling at your dog with your teeth showing is a friendly, welcoming sign, but to many dogs, this is seen as an act of aggression! Dogs do not smile with their mouths in the same way that people do; dogs indicate happiness and excitement by wagging their tails. When a dog shows their teeth, this is usually defensive or aggressive; and so smiling at your dog with your mouth open may be read by your dog as an angry face!
7. Dogs and vision
The vision of the average dog is not as keen as that of people; dogs find it much easier to see movement than a stationary object. If you are standing still more than 300 yards away from a dog, they are unlikely to be able to see you; but if you move or wave your arms, you will become visible! Try it out!
8. Tiny dogs
Small dogs are often referred to as toy dogs, lap dogs or handbag dogs. This is because they appear so small that they might be mistaken to be a toy, can fit comfortably into your lap, and could even fit into a specially designed dog handbag to be carried around in! However, even the smallest dog is still a dog, and should be treated as such!
9. Spaying and neutering
Spaying and neutering dogs is a surgical procedure to remove the ability to have puppies. This is important, as there are already more dogs and puppies within the UK than there are loving homes to care for them. Spaying is the name for the operation performed on a female dog, and neutering or castration is the name for the operation performed on a male. The name used to describe both procedures as a whole is also called ‘neutering,’ however! Left un-neutered, just one pair of dogs and their subsequent offspring could produce as many as 66,000 dogs over the course of six years!
10. Dogs and smell
The sense of smell is the dogs most highly developed sense, and dogs have a sense of smell that is over 1,000 times more sensitive than that of people! The area of the brain that processes smell is over four times larger in dogs than it is in people too. Dogs can follow a scent or the smell of a person or object and track it for many miles, which is why dogs are often trained to help to search for missing persons by the police and search and rescue organisations.
If your children already enjoy playing with and spending time with your dog, or are interested in science, then you are already off to a head start! Having an animal around the home can act as an important learning tool for children, and teach them a wide variety of life lessons, from biology to empathy to responsibility and much more.
Remember to keep learning fun, and don’t push your child into interaction with your dog if they are not enjoying it or are nervous or afraid. Always supervise your children around your dog, and teach them about handling and approaching dogs safely; both yours, and other people’s.