How We Can Trust Kids and Dogs


We look up from our cameras to see two lean and muscular dogs racing towards us. They grin and circle around us before disappearing along the bush track.  A tall man appears. He pushes his long curly hair behind his ears as he says, “Good morning! You’re up early.”

We nod. “It’s a beautiful morning,” we say as we look out over the river. “It was worth getting up early to see the sunrise.”

There’s a mist hovering above the water. The ground along the river bank sparkles with frost.

Our eyes dart quickly towards the man’s long legs. They stretch out of his three-quarter cargo pants. His pale bare toes are visible in his brown leather sandals. And despite our many layers of clothing, we shiver.

“The light is magnificent,” we say. The man looks at our cameras. Perhaps he thinks we’re taking photos of the sun rising over the river. But we’re not. We’re filming a music video.

While we chat, a third dog appears from between the trees. He’s stout. He has very short legs. He trots towards his owner. Soon the man and his dog continue along the track.

“Enjoy your walk,” we say.

When the man is out of sight, I ask, “How will that fat dog keep up with the other ones? Did you see how short his legs are?” We giggle as we turn back to our cameras.

Twenty minutes later, the fat dog ambles past us once again. His roly-poly body almost brushes the dirt track as he retraces his footsteps. Nose to the ground, he disappears between the trees.

The sun rises higher in the sky. The man comes striding back towards us. The lean dogs bounce along by his side.

“We saw your other dog,” we say.

“He was heading back to my car,” the man tells us. “He knows how far he’s capable of walking.”

“The dog is an unschooler!” I think. His owner trusts him. He decides about how far he can walk. When he’s had enough, he turns around and heads for home. The dog is quite capable of making a good decision.

If a man can trust a dog, surely we can trust our kids? They know when they’re tired or hungry or cold. They know how much clothing they need to wear and what they’re interested in learning about. They know what they need to know and when they need to know it. We don’t have to make their decisions for them.

I tell this unschooling dog story in my video, How We Can Trust Kids and Dogs. I also share more details about our latest music video shoot.

And when you’ve watched my video, perhaps you’d like to see the end result of our morning’s work at the river. Here’s Imogen’s music video, Safe and Sound.

We hope you enjoy it!

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  1. Reply

    I loved hearing you tell this story on your video, Sue. Unschooling is everywhere!

    We let our dogs off the lead from when they were 8 weeks old and they've never run away. They trust us, and we trust them. It wonder if it's a bit more difficult when you get an older dog who may not have learned to trust people when it was young, but I've known people manage. It's never too late to trust, respect and love unconditionally. 🙂

    What beautiful photos from your video shoot. I did enjoy watching Imogen's video. She's doing so well. You must all be looking forward to warmer mornings – if not having to get up in the middle of the night! (Perhaps daylight saving time will help? I'm not looking forward to our clocks changing back later this month, but I can't complain – we've had a long and wonderful summer.)

    1. Reply


      You are so right: unschooling is indeed everywhere! It's a natural part of life.

      I have another dog story from our recent holiday at the lake. Our dog Nora doesn't like water. She steps daintily around puddles and won't walk through them. While we were walking along the shore of the lake, I didn't think she'd stray too far from me because there were trees on one side, water on the other, and reeds directly in front of us. Not much free space to roam. But I hadn't noticed the swan. Nora had. She dived into the lake and started swimming towards it determined to catch it. She was so intent on her purpose she forgot all about her dislike of the water. Kids and dogs will do things they dislike when there is a perfectly good reason for doing them! (btw, Nora was unsuccessful. She had no chance of catching the swan!)

      I think the cold morning video shoots are behind us for a few months. Yes, spring and the warmer weather are here. It's lovely to hear you've enjoyed a long and wonderful summer. It's also lovely to chat with you!

  2. Reply

    I so agree with you! This somehow rinds me of the parties we would go to when my kids were small and all the other kids were srambling for any sweet treat they could get their hands on, while mine took a modest amount or sometimes nothing at all. The parents would ask me my secret and I would tell them that I have no rules about sweets. They can have them whenever they want them, and so they are not desperate for them, nor feel the need to stockpile them. They would always answer that they couldn't do that with their child. I always wondered if that was true or whether they just didn't trust enough to just let them lead their own lives.

    1. Reply


      I've also been asked for my secret and when I've shared what I do, people have said, "That wouldn't work with my children." They think I have unusual kids, but I don't agree. All kids will respond to trust. Maybe it's just too hard for some parents to let go. Thank you for sharing your story. I'd love to meet your children. You have a delightful family!

  3. Reply

    Excellent story! We're lucky enough to live next to a park with hiking trails where we can almost always leave our dog off-lead. We also send the kids, (3 and 5) off-lead to hike cross country between two trails of a loop. They've both been hiking since they could walk. It gives them an independent 'adventure', and we're never too far away. Even so, we occasionally run into 'concerned adults' that stop them. So far though, it's been pretty great even with the headaches.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, some people don't understand that kids need to be trusted and have adventures. As you said, you're never far away from your kids so there's no real danger.

      The concerned adults' reaction is representative of today's society in general. Kids aren't allowed to do much at all. Playgrounds are unexciting. Everyone worries about safety… I could write a whole blog post about my thoughts and frustrations on this topic!

      It sounds like you have a wonderful time hiking with your children. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Miu
    • October 8, 2016

    Hello Sue,
    I love the story and the analogy!
    I also headed over to watch Imogen's video. I noticed that I cannot comment on the video on youtube. I don't know though if it is because of my settings or because of the settings of the video.

    1. Reply


      I'm sorry you were unable to comment on Imogen's video. I had a look at the video on Youtube and, on my computer, it was possible to comment. I wonder why you couldn't. Strange things happen sometimes! Very frustrating!

      Thank you so much for reading my story and watching Imogen's video. It's always great to exchange comments with you!

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