When it comes to learning boundaries, farm dogs are the best teachers. As my daughter approaches her fourth birthday, she has very firm opinions about her boundaries. I taught her from a very early age that her body is her own, and she alone gets to say where her boundaries are. But, I’ve also taught her that other people have boundaries too, and they get to say what those are, and she has to respect them. This is a little harder lesson, but my farm dogs have been the best teachers to model this idea. This is how my farm dogs taught my kid the important lesson of setting firm boundaries of your own and respecting others’ boundaries.
Set Your Own Boundaries
My farm dogs have very different personalities and interact with my daughter in very different ways. I adopted all three dogs as adults, and although each of them qualifies as “good with kids,” they each have distinctly different interpretations of how to be “good with kids.” My daughter responds better to some of these ways than others.
From the time my daughter was old enough to voice her opinion, I taught her that she gets to say how and when the dogs interact with her. All three dogs respect her and understand “no” when she says it. If the dogs don’t respond when she tells them “no,” I back her up and reinforce it.
I am teaching my daughter to develop her voice and say how and when other people can interact with her, and we are using her interactions with the farm dogs to cement this. She knows when she tells the dog “no” that I will back her up. She is learning now that when she tells a person “no” that I will back her up. I do not care who it offends, or whose feelings get hurt. If she does not want to be touched, she has the right to say that. If she would rather wave goodbye than give someone a hug, that is her right, and I will back her up. If she is done playing and the other person won’t leave her alone after she asks, I will back her up. This applies to adults and kids.
My kid’s boundaries are important, and I want her to know that I will respect any boundaries she sets for herself. No matter what, I have her back, whether it’s a boundary with the farm dog or a boundary with a person.
Respect Others’ Boundaries
Young children believe that everyone thinks like them and has the same boundaries that they do. Learning that others have the right to set their own boundaries is a hard lesson, but an important one. This is where my farm dogs really teach a lesson well.
Each of my dogs has their own unique personality and their own opinion of how to interact with kids.
My Dalmatian, Rylee, loves snuggling with kids of all ages, from tiny babies to teenagers. She likes hugs and laying in laps on the couch. My daughter knows that it’s okay for her to give Rylee hugs and not to bother throwing a ball for her because she won't chase it.
My Australian Shepherd, Sadie, just turned 12 years old and is starting to have a few aches and sore spots. My daughter knows she can’t touch Sadie in the areas that hurt her and that Sadie really likes her to sit next to her and pet her head.
Lefty, my Queensland Heeler, is the playful dog. He will chase a ball or play tug all day long. He likes to have his chest scratched. He does not like hugs or being snuggled. He has a good sense of his personal space. My daughter knows that she can play with Lefty, but she cannot hug him.
Three dogs, three personalities, three opportunities for my daughter to learn to respect others’ boundaries.
An Important Lesson
Kids need to know that their boundaries matter and that they will be supported no matter where they set those boundaries. They also need to know that others have their own boundaries, and they must respect them. These lessons take time to learn but are so important. I am so thankful for three wonderful farm dogs who teach my child how to set her own boundaries and respect theirs.
What lessons do your farm dogs teach your kids? Let me know in the comments below!
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.