So your kids are demanding a dog. That’s not unusual. At some point or the other, children will ask to bring home a furry pet. And dogs are just so easy to fall for! Your child may have seen one at a friend’s home, at the neighbor’s, on the TV, or passed a litter of pups by a park. Dogs are everywhere, and kids are as much fascinated by them and attracted to them as are adults.
However, bringing a dog home is a huge responsibility. It’s almost like bringing home a human child. That’s the kind of commitment, patience, and upkeep it will require.
Your kids won’t be able to understand the enormity of this responsibility, so you will not just have to make sure that you look after the dog well, but also teach your kids to do so.
If you are fine with this responsibility, here are a few suggestions that will help you create a responsible and caring attitude in your children towards the dog.
Tell Them It’s Their Younger Sibling
Kids are usually protective of their younger siblings, especially when there is a considerable age difference between the two.
Put off bringing home a dog until your kids are old enough for this responsibility. Around ten would be a good age to start (it would help if one of your kids is around that age.) They would be set in their routines, and you won’t have to run after them, which would free you up to focus on caring for and training the dog.
Even though it’s a canine, it’s important for the kids to look at their puppy as a younger sibling, not just a cute friend that they sometimes play with.
Educate your children about the nature of puppies – they look cute but can be very destructive. They also need to be fed regularly and house trained with great patience.
Patience is one commodity you and your kids are going to need in droves to care for your dog properly. And kids can lack patience. They can also get irritated when the pup starts whining in the middle of the night, which it will.
You introducing the pup to your kids as their younger sibling will instill in them a gentleness that most elder kids tend to have towards their baby brothers and sisters.
Set in Place a Dog Caring Routine for Your Children
Who is going to feed the pup? Clean up after him? Bathe him? Groom him? And play with him when he gets a bit older?
Delegate responsibility to your kids so that they can take care of the dog’s daily needs, and that too on time.
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Teach them to:
- Check the dog’s bowls of food and water and ensure they are always full.
- Check if there are enough dog supplies in the house. If you are running short on them, your children should alert you about that.
- Check if the dog has been bathed. (You will have to decide how often to bathe your dog, and fix the days and the time for this.)
- Check if there are enough dog grooming products in the house. Is the dog shampoo bottle getting empty? What about his towel? Does it need to be replaced? Make a note.
- What about dog toys? Puppies love to chew on stuff, so you must get him chewable toys at regular intervals depending on how quickly he destroys the toys. But always make sure, and also help your kids make sure, that there are enough chewable toys for your dog around.
Make Your Kids Your Dog Training Partner
Of course, your kids won’t know how to train a dog, but they can help you with your training of him.
For example, if you are teaching your dog not to beg for food, you need to make it clear to your kids that you are doing so, and more importantly, why you are doing so. So that they do not melt at the puppy face and throw a cookie or two his way.
If your kids feed your dog all kinds of things behind your back, it will undo your training efforts. Instead, work with your children when you train the dog. Let them see how you go about it, and understand the rationale behind your actions.
Encourage Your Kids to play with the Dog Everyday
Schedule playtime for your kids with the dog every single day — unless they have their exams or if it’s raining/snowing outside.
Not only will your kids get much-needed exercise and fresh air, the dog will too. Together they will have fun and forge a deeper bond.
Make this a part of their routine. It’s very important for pet owners to understand their pet’s need for daily exercise and entertainment. If you inculcate this habit in your children at a young age, they will grow to be very responsible pet owners themselves.
However, before you set this particular schedule in place, determine your dog’s need for daily activity yourself. Not all dogs need the same amount of exercise; pugs and bull dogs, for instance, would rather not undergo anything strenuous. Breeds like Border Collies and Golden Retrievers, on the other hand, need lots of exercise.
You can only rope in your kids to help with the dog’s routine once you are sure you know what exactly your dog needs.
Train Your Kids to Understand the Dog’s Moods
Kids are naturally intuitive and empathetic, so this should not be a problem. Dogs are moody creatures, but they don’t like disappointing their masters so they are always up for a bit of fun, even if they are hurting. However, when they are resting in their doggy bed, or in your lap, move your hand through their coat to determine if everything is alright. Spending a little bit of quiet time with your dog will tell you a lot about him. Has your dog picked up lice? Has he picked up an injury not easily visible, like behind the ear or under the paw? Train your kids to watch out for the telltale signs of discomfort or pain in your dog.
Dogs are great fun, and kids and dogs together can make your house look like the happiest place on earth, or a complete war zone. It all depends on how you handle this equation. You’d have to train your dog and your children simultaneously. But if you are able to pull this off you will make your children responsible pet owners for life.