It’s no secret that Ray is a VIP (Very Important Poodle). He is an exceptional watch dog. Nurse Poodle when the girls are sick. Intuitive and grounding when emotions run high. He also exceeds all expectations in the lap dog category, and there isn’t a piece of furniture he doesn’t look good on.
Ray is also the inspiration for “Suburban Dawgs”, a rhyming story about the alter egos of our beloved canine companions. This story is a delightful tour through a suburban neighbourhood highlighting the many different canine characters who live there.
Your family dog is the perfect subject for a character study lesson.
Any good dog trainer will advise you to avoid anthropomorphising your dog. That is, attributing human motivations, characteristics, and behaviours to your dog. Trainers want dog owners to recognize their pet is an animal first and foremost, not a furry human, and that a dog's needs as an animal must be provided for.
A dog trainers “faux pas” is a young writer’s inspiration!
The Suburban Dawgs story was an incredibly fun dog walk with our eldest daughter when she was 8. As we walked, we observed a few of our dog Ray’s idiosyncrasies and began assigning human characteristics to them. As we continued walking and observing other dogs, we did the same to them. We then created names for all of these dogs that we thought best fit their characteristics. And voila! In the span of a 40-minute dog walk we had created five complete characters with names, descriptions and even motivations.
This would have been an exceptionally painful process if we were sitting at a table and engaging in a formal discussion of character creation and development.
The beauty of this experience was using the imagination for what it does best: allow us to imagine the world through a different lens.
Don’t have a family dog? You can always use a dog from your favourite book, movie or TV show, many of which are already highly anthromorphized!
Here are four ways to use your family dog for writing inspiration.
- Spend a few minutes discussing, observing, or remembering specific behaviours, antics or habits that are unique to your pup.
- Discuss or (write down) answers to some juicy questions:
- Why do you think Fido likes/dislikes doing a specific behaviour?
- What would Fido want to achieve?
- Why does Fido think this is a good idea?
- Who does Fido look/sound or act like when he is in this situation?
- Write down a list of adjectives and verbs that feel in alignment with your family dog. This is a great tool to reinforce some grammar basics. Here is an example of how we would describe Ray:
ADJECTIVES: (describes a noun)
VERBS: (actions or state of being)
Adjectives and verbs are such a great way to prime the writing juices! Simply writing these words down on a board, or sheet of paper and making them visible can spark ideas.
- Once you have your motivation, adjectives and verbs, explore some writing! Pick a scenario and try to imagine how your family dog would respond. Here are a few scenarios to get your started:
- Someone drops an entire ice cream cone on the floor
- The wind knocks down a tree and it falls on the house in the middle of the night
- A rabbit hops into your house
Here are some ideas to keep it simple for younger kids or reluctant writers:
- Have you kid dictate their ideas to you
- Ask them to draw a picture outlining what they envision might happen
- Take turns writing with them, alternating sentences or ideas
- Encourage young writers to write the first letter or a letter sound of a word depending on their level of confidence
If you would like to use "Suburban Dawgs" for inspiration it is available for purchase in a PDF/Audio bundle in the shop.
STORY DETAILS: "Suburban Dawgs"
DESCRIPTION: This story explores the “alter egos” or secret personalities of domestic dogs as they take an adventurous night out while their families sleep.
READ ALOUD TIME: 5 minutes
GENRE: magic realism
SUBJECT: language arts
TOPIC: animal story
THEMES/KEYWORDS: suburbs, pets, dogs, alter ego, poodle, golden retriever, pug, daschund, sneaking out, family, neighbourhood
PROTAGONIST 1: dog
PROTAGONIST 2: dog
WORD COUNT: 749
AUDIO FILE: yes
BOOK: Book One
Did you enjoy this blog post as support for your kids literacy goals or homeschool curriculum? Let me know if you do! I'm happy to share more stories and how we use them in our homeschool learning.
Make sharing a story the sweetest part of your day <3