I am honored to share a guest post by Samantha Randall, the Editor-in-Chief at TopDogTips.com
How to Prepare Children for Dog Ownership
There are few children that don’t get excited by the idea of getting a dog, but there are even fewer parents that don’t get nervous about getting their kid a dog. And that’s understandable. After all, as parents often worry: dogs are predators with big, sharp teeth, a killer’s instinct and – like everyone else – are prone to get irritated when careless kids start pulling their fur and tail.
None of that is true, of course!
Our long-domesticated pets are actually very social and friendly, and while they don’t come with a special step-by-step manual, after some basic obedience training, dogs can be managed well and provide a multitude of physical and mental health benefits, both for the kids and their parents.
That said, when it comes to adopting a dog into a home with kids, the stress of a new environment and family, paired with the mistakes that an unprepared kid can make around a dog, definitely can result in an accident.
It’s important that you protect your child from such accidents, and prevention is the best cure – it’s your job to prepare your child for the do-s and don’t-s of having a dog. Learn how to prepare children for a dog – it’s more fun than you think!
You can always start by teaching kids to behave around dogs and training your dogs to behave around kids. Preparing your child for the responsibility of pet ownership will take some planning on your part, so here’s what you should know.
How to make sure your kid will be safe with a dog
Teach your child how to behave around dogs
- There are a lot of things about interacting with dogs that are not-so-obvious for a young child, and studies show that many children do not understand how to interact with dogs.
- Not pulling a dog’s tail or ears, not pulling his fur, not tackling the dog into the ground, not sticking your face too close to the dog’s muzzle and so forth is something that must be explained to a young human. It’s important that you not only teach your kid not to do those things but also why he/she shouldn’t do them.
- Helping kids understand the reasoning behind something is the best way to teach them.
Introduce your kid to a friend’s dog first
- A lot of kids want dogs but aren’t used to interacting with them. Get your kid some face time with a friend’s or neighbor’s dog.
- You can also start taking them to where dogs can be interacted with in public, before actually committing to pet ownership.
- Always supervise your child during this face time, but let your kid interact with the animal. It’s important for your child to practice all the safety tips that you’ve taught him/her. This way your kid will have experience when you eventually get a dog.
Make sure that your child is self-conscious enough to care for his/her own wellbeing
- Kids that are too young simply don’t have the necessary self-awareness to pay attention to their own physical safety.
- Getting a dog for such a kid or even for a baby is not necessarily a bad thing, but is a whole different ball game.
- If your child is too young to be mindful of his/her own safety, this means that you can’t really teach him or her too much, and you’ll have to supervise both the child and the dog all the time. It’s not a problem as long as you’re comfortable with such an arrangement.
How to make sure that your child is prepared for the responsibility of having a dog
Teach your kid responsibility before getting a dog
- There are plenty of valid reasons why you should let your kids take care of a dog.
- One of the main benefits of dog ownership is that it teaches kids responsibility and patience. But the reverse is true as well – your child should be at least a little responsible before you drop a puppy in his/her lap.
- The process should start before getting a pet: getting kids into chores like helping with house cleaning, teaching them to prepare for school by themselves, and so on.
- If your child is comfortable with these basics, then he/she might be ready to take care for a dog.
Teach your child about empathy
- Another thing that dogs teach kids is empathy.
- At the same time, however, if your child is too un-empathetic, it’s possible that he/she will view the dog as nothing more than just a plush toy and will likely mistreat it.
- It’s important for the wellbeing of both the kid and the dog that your child has a basic understanding that other people and animals feel pain too, that they have emotions that they need to be taken care of, and so on.
- This is best achieved by reading to your kid, as well as by stimulating his/her interest in animals in the first place.
Make sure your kid is excited about having a dog, not just about having a puppy
- One major reason why a lot of dogs end up on the street is because the child in the family gets bored with the dog. Most kids that want a pet want a young pet – a small puppy or kitten that they can hug and play with.
- After several short months, however, the pet grows into an adult animal and the child loses interest. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your kid wants an actual dog and not just a small puppy to cuddle with.
Make the more tedious dog-related choirs look fun
- Another reason why kids tend to get bored with their dogs after a while is because the “fun factor” wears off, but the kid still needs to do all the “un-fun” choirs like walking the dog, feeding the dog, cleaning after the dog, etc.
- It’s important to make sure that your child views these choirs as fun. Show your kid how nice it is to walk or run in the park in the morning, show them how fun it is to feed a dog and watch him munch the food like crazy, etc.
Teach your kid how to properly play with a dog
- Kids and dogs play in very different ways. And while you can’t teach a dog to play with Lego, you can teach your kid how to play with a dog.
- Before getting a dog, go play some ball or Frisbee throwing in the park with your kid, for example. Or, let your child play with a friend’s dog.
Thank you Samantha for sharing your tips on how to prepare children for dog ownership!
Check out TopDogTips.com for lots of dog-related tips, tricks and helpful information.