Drawing on the Devotion of DogsMay 22, 2023
It’s said that a dog is man’s best friend - ‘man’ referring, of course, to all of us - mankind. From an early age we draw those we love most, those closest to us - our pets and people. Circles, lines and squiggles become more recognisable as drawings are enhanced with growing artistic techniques. Whether these artworks are created by children or adults, they are valued as keepsakes to display, admire and remember.
I grew up with dogs and have always treasured their unconditional love, loyalty and companionship. For some people, dogs provide more than just company. There are those that help people with health difficulties, dogs that guard and protect us and our property, some that work to make our jobs easier, or are trained to perform specific tasks.
Whether working with children as a classroom teacher or homeschooler (or looking to engage kids in a meaningful way on the weekend), our connection with dogs segues nicely into several curriculum areas.
When creating a unit of inquiry, there will be big ideas that drive the questioning and research. Let’s go with ‘Devoted domesticated dogs heighten our health and happiness’! Questions that might help us delve into this a bit deeper could be:
- What are the distinctive and unique characteristics of a dog?
- What responsibilities are there in owning a dog?
- How is having a pet dog good for us?
- How do working dogs make life easier?
- Why does cuddling a dog feel good?
Underpinning these inquiries is visual learning, using and creating images and diagrams. This is stronger with younger children but inherent to developing understanding at any stage. Building Visual Arts skills supports this learning across other curriculum areas.
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Some answers to the initial questions will come through studies of Biological Sciences. Knowing our dogs and their needs and how we can best help each other is fundamental. However, I feel an area of key importance is how our relationship with dogs can promote our physical and mental wellbeing, improving our overall Health. Then enhancing our experiences comes with reading stories about dogs, and creating our own through engaging in English activities. Our devotion and love for our four-legged companions can also be expressed through drawings and paintings in Visual Arts. We might create our own or enjoy viewing artworks by others. Below are some possible links to the Australian Curriculum.
Living things have a variety of external features
- recognising common features of animals
- describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving, feeding and showing emotions (wagging tail)
Living things depend on each other and the environment to survive
- recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial (caring for a dog, a dog being our eyes)
Health & Physical Education
Personal, Social and Community Health
Year 3 to 6
Identify, plan and practise strategies to promote health, safety and wellbeing
- proposing changes that can be made to our daily routines to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity levels (interacting with our dogs!)
Appreciation of literature. Through engagement with literature, students learn about themselves, each other and the world. Here is a selection of stories relating to dogs.
- Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill 1980
- The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey 1942
- Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion 1956
- Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd 1983
- Clifford the big red dog by Norman Bridwell 1963
- Dog Man by Dav Pilkey 2016
- Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith 1956
- Old Yeller by Fred Gipson 1942
- Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight 1938
- Marley & Me by John Grogan 2005
Foundation to Year 2
Explore ideas, experiences, observations and imagination to create visual artworks
- observing and recording the shapes, colours and textures of things they experience in their daily lives, for example, pets
Year 3 and 4
Identify intended purposes and meanings of artworks using visual arts terminology to compare artworks
- Considering viewpoints – evaluations: For example – Did you enjoy looking at the artwork? Why? Which artwork do you like the most? Explain why you like it.
Year 5 and 6
Explain how visual arts conventions communicate meaning by comparing artworks from different social, cultural and historical contexts
- Considering viewpoints – meanings and interpretations: For example – What is this artwork about? What visual conventions have been used to convey meaning? How did the artist represent their subject matter?
Here are a few examples of dogs in paintings which could be used to help students work through some analyses of famous artworks.
- This first example is a video clip that shares a discussion about Norman Rockwell’s painting from 1927 of a boy with his dog and puppies: Good Friends. It could give a few tips on what to look for.
- Dogs Playing Poker is a series of artworks by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge from 1894 - a favourite of mine being A Friend in Need.
- In the National Gallery of Art, Washington, hangs a painting I like by Édouard Manet called King Charles Spaniel (1866).
From wild wolf to domesticated dog
But where did our connection with dogs begin? As fierce predators, they initially were our competitors when hunting for food. Gradually the benefits of working together outweighed individual needs. This clip, A Brief History of Dogs, gives a quick animated overview of how our connection with dogs developed over time. Here is an alternate version from National Geographic: A Brief History of Dogs. Check out both and decide which might suit your students best.
In the Middle Ages, it was a status symbol amongst the nobility to own and carry around a small fluffy dog, or two - possibly adorned with bows and the like.
As working dogs
From early days of domestication, dogs helped look after flocks of animals protecting them from predators. They could hear and smell danger well before a human could. Today they still help with herding and mustering of livestock.
The strength of some dogs and their resilience to harsh conditions means they have helped their human owners by pulling heavy loads on sleds across snow and ice, retrieving game birds or fish from lakes, and supporting the rescue of people.
With a sense of smell much stronger than humans, they can be trained to search and find all sorts of things - truffles for cooking, explosives in wartime, contraband in luggage, people who are lost or running away or trapped after a disaster. They can help solve crimes.
Service dogs are trained to assist people who live with sight or hearing impairments and other physical disabilities. Therapy dogs comfort people who are sick in hospital, living in a nursing home or suffering from emotional distress.
As family pets
Dogs are loyal and devoted to us, their owners. They can follow our line of sight when you point at something; they understand commands and instructions; they can detect our changing moods and respond accordingly. There have been studies that seemed to indicate when we cuddle a dog the hormone oxytocin is released - the happy hormone. This helps us feel good, putting us in a more positive frame of mind.
Does Your Dog Love You ABC iView Sciencey series, 2017 - might be fun to watch with your children.
Today we take oodles of photos of our pets. It helps us hang on to memories of them at different ages, in different places and doing different things. Being able to draw them provides another avenue for making lasting memories or just to help us feel relaxed and happy. Artworks, based on our photos, can be a way to pour our heart into creating something to show our love for our four-legged friends to commemorate their devotion to us. Learn how to draw a dog with us, links below.
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Here are some lessons in Artventure:
- Howling Wolf (Level 3)
- Dog Puppy (2)
- Dog (2)
- Dog - Scribble Warm Up (2)
- Geometric Paint Dog (4)
- Farm Animals (1)
- Apple Farmer (4)
And more advanced lessons in the Art Eye Deer library:
Teacher and Artventure Blogger