10/08/2012 at 04:00 PM EDT
When you grow up surrounded by animals, you learn important life lessons, says folk singer Jewel.
"I think animals teach you about love," she tells PEOPLE. "I think it's great to have chores and it's great to take care of something. It's an easy way to teach somebody to not be selfish."
The singer, her husband Ty Murray and their toddler son
have learned so much from the 200 cows, 10 horses, two donkeys and five dogs they keep at the 2,400-acre Texas ranch. While little Kase has just learned all the funny sounds the animals make, he's well on his way to understanding what ranch life is all about.
"He's only 14 months old, but we're grooming him for the chores," she says. "I grew up on a ranch so we've always really loved our animals."
That passion is the reason Jewel took the stage at Saturday's Hero Dog Awards, where she performed three songs in honor of the country's most courageous canines.
It was important for her to be involved in the event, which airs Nov. 8 on the Hallmark Channel. "I think that dogs deserve to be honored for the roles that they play in our lives," she says.
There's definitely a canine hero among the five dogs that reside at her rural ranch: shih tzu Georgia, the couple's smallest pup.
"He has been really great with Kase, surprisingly, because he always hated kids," she says. "Kase loves him, he goes up and give him kisses all the time."