Family Soccer Time With Dogs

It’s a universal truth that happy families play together
By Karen B. London PhD, February 2019, Updated June 2021

While out at the local sports fields with my husband and kids, I saw four spectators watching the pick-up soccer game on the field next to us. Three were human children and one was a dog. All four of them got their chance to participate after the people wrapped up their game. One guy began to kick the ball around with his three children, and another guy began to play more or less the same way with his dog.

The sight of each of these men, playing with members of their family, is a reminder of the many similarities between our relationships with our kids and with our dogs. Both want and deserve our attention. Both want to play and will often wait patiently for the opportunity.

It’s not just casual soccer players who play with their dogs. One of the world’s greatest players, Lionel Messi, also has a habit of playing with his dog, although he is not always as willing to let his dog have the ball most guys are. Perhaps in this video, he wants to show his skills to those following him on social media rather than simply to engage with his dog. He has posted plenty of pictures of himself lounging around with his dog, so the signs are all there that they have a good relationship even if Messi doesn’t share the ball with him in this 30-second clip.


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We choose to spend time with the ones we love, so it’s the most natural thing in the world for members of a family to hang out together on the weekends, watching each other play various sports and playing them together. The particular species of the individual members doesn’t make a lot of difference.

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life