This is a story about a family who is having trouble with their dog. The dog won’t sit, stay or fetch and constantly escapes from the back yard, so his family contemplates getting rid of him. This story showcases the importance of training your pets and illustrates what can happen if you don’t!
Why use this book?
- This book shows the reality of having a pet, while it can be a lot of fun, it also comes with challenges
- Highlights the importance of training
- Demonstrates the strong connection and relationships people have with their pets, known as the human-animal bond. Even though the dog caused a lot of stress throughout the story, the special bond between the boy and his dog is clearly evident.
Animal Welfare Considerations:
- The book makes multiple references to the dog behaving ‘poorly’, but many of the instances (digging the sofa, stealing your glove, etc.) are just natural dog behaviours. Exercise is important for helping dogs get out energy, enrichment can help dogs to express their natural behaviours and training can help reduce or redirect some of the problematic behaviours.
- The boy is shown hugging the dog in a few illustrations. While this is a common portrayal in many picture books, most dogs (even your family pet) probably are not comfortable being hugged as they may see this as being restrained and not having a way out. When dogs feel fee this way, there a potential for them to bite.
- The dog is illustrated wearing sweatbands in this book. While in some instances protective layers may be appropriate (extreme cold, etc), putting animals in clothing, like Halloween costumes, can restrict their movement, compromise their ability to communicate through body language, and be uncomfortable, therefore they most likely don’t enjoy wearing them.
Ask your Students:
- Why do you think the dog can’t sit, stay or fetch? The dog wasn’t trained to know what the words mean. Animals need to be trained, using positive reinforcement, so they can understand what is being asked of them.
- What other options could the family have explored before saying, “He cannot stay!”
- Why is it important to train your pet? Training your pet can reduce and redirect unwanted behaviours – such as jumping, scratching the couch, toileting in the house, etc. Pets that are untrained are more likely to be relinquished to shelters.
- Can other animals than dogs be trained? Yes! Lots of animals can be trained including pigs, horses, cats, rats, rabbits fish, and the list goes on! See the resources below for a video demonstrating rats doing a number of impressive tricks.
- Is the dog actually being bad? Explain.
- What are things all owners should do in case their dog gets lost? License and register, up-to-date identification and vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc.
- What should you do if you lost your pet? Search your neighbourhood, contact your municipal/county animals service or bylaw department, visit local animal shelters, contact local veterinarians, etc.
- Do dogs like hugs? – As a class, watch this short Alberta SPCA video with dog behaviour specialist, Kris Rooney, who answers the question: Do dogs like hugs? Then, as a class come up with a list of other ways to show dogs affection or respect. Taking on a walk, giving a treat, brushing, playing, petting or scratching, giving dogs space (especially if students are uncomfortable with dogs), etc. Next, have students survey the class and ask: “What is your favourite way to show dogs you care for them/give them respect?” Students can collect the data and create a bar or pie graph to display the data. (Remind them that hugs aren’t the best way!)
- Life with animals (when you don’t have a pet) – Sometimes families are not ready for a pet or can’t have one and that is OK! While owning a pet is fun, it comes with a lot of responsibility. In pairs, have students brainstorm ways to incorporate animals into their life (other than owning one). Ideas could include read books about animals, watch movies/TV shows/YouTube clips featuring animals, safely observe wildlife, visit a friend who has a pet, etc.