Learning from the Animal Kingdom – Dogs
The third in a five-part series about lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom
by Philippa Rae
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To celebrate dogs, particularly their quality of loyalty.
Preparation and materials
Have available the following images and the means to display them during the assembly:
- dog breeds, available at: http://tinyurl.com/zd6uvhk
- a police dog, available at: http://tinyurl.com/ho6gqdv
- a guide dog, available at: http://tinyurl.com/h6xaoth
- a sniffer dog, available at: http://tinyurl.com/hm93fgl
Further information about dogs is available from the veterinary charity, PDSA (www.pdsa.org.uk/awards), and the world’s largest dog show, Crufts (www.crufts.org.uk). Their websites contain many inspiring stories.
Many other organizations also harness the wonderful relationship between humans and dogs, including Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hounds for Heroes, Assistance Dogs UK, Dogs for Good, Pets As Therapy (PAT) Dogs and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Ask if any of the children own pets. Ask the children to tell you about their pets and why they enjoy having them. If possible, tell the children about your own experiences with pets and what you learnt from them.
Point out that many people own a dog. Ask the children to raise their hands if this includes them. Ask what it is that people like and dislike about dogs.
Many people like dogs because they offer a special type of love that is often referred to as unconditional. This means that, if dogs are treated with care and respect, they love their owners just the way they are. Their friendship isn’t dependent on how clever, talented or successful the owner is; it is based on a mutual respect and affection for personal qualities such as kindness or patience.
Show the images of dog breeds.
Ask the children if they can identify any of the breeds.
As well as making good pets, dogs can be trained to help humans in various ways. These roles often require a great deal of skill and bravery.
Show the images of working dogs.
Ask the children if they can guess what job the dogs are doing.
After dogs have been trained, much of their ability to do their job is linked with the loyalty they feel towards their owners. A respectful dog will trust his or her owner and follow instructions without question. In return, the dog’s owner trusts the dog to do the job to the best of his or her ability. Dogs can transform the lives of people who have medical conditions, such as by working as guide dogs for the blind and deaf.
Over the years, there have been many wonderful stories of the loyalty that dogs have shown to people and other animals. We are going to look at a couple of examples (with thanks to the PDSA (see www.pdsa.org.uk/awards) and Crufts (see www.crufts.org.uk)).
Morgan is a young Lhasa Apso and he was awarded a PDSA Commendation for coming to the aid of his owner, John Stevenson, when John had a serious accident. Morgan showed exceptional devotion and intelligence in understanding the situation.
Mary Stevenson, John’s wife, had been feeling unwell and was resting in the house while John was outside doing some gardening. When Morgan kept barking very loudly, Mary went into the garden and found John lying semiconscious on the grass. Morgan was by John’s side and very distressed. John, who was 76, had been up a ladder, pruning a tree, when he lost his balance and fell. John was seriously hurt, but Mary quickly called an ambulance and John was soon admitted to hospital. Morgan’s actions in continuing to bark loudly until help came probably saved John’s life.
Scooby, a Labrador Retriever, was a finalist in the Friends for Life competition run by Crufts. She is not only a devoted friend to her owner, teenager Sophie Pearman, but also a lifesaver. Before Scooby’s arrival, Sophie was depressed and became withdrawn because she felt different to other children. Not only has Sophie had to undergo several major brain operations, she also suffers from type 1 diabetes, which is a condition that affects levels of sugar in the blood. Scooby has the remarkable ability to sniff out subtle changes in Sophie’s body odour that indicate a change in blood sugar level. Twice, Scooby has woken the family at night when Sophie’s blood sugar has shot up to dangerous levels in her sleep. Scooby’s actions resulted in Sophie being taken to hospital for emergency treatment. Sophie says that Scooby has also brought her out of her shell and inspired her to become involved in the world of dog training.
What can we learn from Morgan, Scooby and other dogs? Well, we can learn many things from dogs, but one thing is that we all need friends who understand and accept us the way we are. Although other qualities in friendships are important, loyalty is what binds us together. We need people who we can rely on and who rely on us. It takes time and effort to build loyalty. Real friends don’t run away at the first sign of trouble or switch sides just because it’s fashionable or easier.
Time for reflection
Let’s spend a moment thinking about the pets we own or our favourite animals. Let’s think about their qualities and the lessons we can learn from them.
Now let’s think about dogs and remind ourselves of the lessons we can learn from them. When dogs are treated well, they love us for who we are. This has a huge impact on the lives of many people and has a positive effect on their well-being. Being loved for who you are, or loving someone for who they are, means that you don’t have to continually prove yourself to gain someone’s approval or friendship. Dogs also provide great companionship and affection.
Let’s try to show these qualities to our friends: love, acceptance, approval, respect and loyalty. We can learn a great deal from dogs!
We thank you for our friends, and the ways in which they enrich our lives.
We thank you for wonderful animals like dogs, who can teach us so much.
Please give us the patience, understanding and courage to stand by our friends when they need us.
Help us to display the characteristics of love, acceptance, approval, respect and loyalty.