Did you know that September is “Responsible Dog Ownership Days” sponsored by the AKC? Pretty neat, huh?! We think this is a great time to talk about the importance of teaching children about the responsibilities of owning a canine companion.
While proper dog care should absolutely be up to adults, encouraging children and teaching them about routines, walking, feeding and how to behave with dogs can start at any age.
Here are some ideas of how you can incorporate your children into your dog’s care:
- Feeding: Teach your kids about how many times a day you feed your dog, how much they get at each feeding and why it’s important to leave them alone while they eat. You can put the food in a kid-friendly location and have them measure the food into the dog bowl. If you have more than one child, you can have one child feed breakfast and the other feed dinner, or rotate who gets to feed the dog each day. You can also have them help you wash the food and water bowls.
- Training: If you are bringing your dog through obedience classes, talk to your trainer about how you can incorporate your kids into training exercises. We encourage families with children to bring them to class and we show the children how they can help teach their dogs or be a helpful distraction while their parents are working their dog.
- Walking: You may think this one isn’t possible, but it is! Attach 2 leashes to your dog’s collar or harness – one for your child to hold on to and a longer one for you. You can walk behind your child and dog and help keep control of the dog. Of course, if your dog already knows how to heel, this task may be a bit easier, but the more you and your child practice, the easier it will become.
- How to Behave Around Dogs: Of course, you always want to be present with children and dogs but it is great to start teaching them young acceptable ways to interact with their furry friends. Discourage ear, lip and tail pulling, jumping on the dog, poking eyes or smacking the dog. When children are a little older and can understand concepts and rules, it is important to teach them never to run up to dogs, put their face up to a dog’s face, or approach a dog they don’t know.
- Giving Medication: You can have your children help you give oral medications by having them cover the pills in some peanut butter or cheese and then giving it your dog. You and your little one should stay and watch your dog to make sure they don’t spit the medicine out.
- Going to the Vet: It’s a great time to explain to your kids that just like them, Fido needs to see their doctor for yearly wellness checkup, too! If you have questions for your veterinarian, it would be great to enlist the help of your child. You could give them one question to ask the doctor, so they feel included in the visit, too. Some vets will explain to your children what they’re checking on your dog as they go through the exam. Your child may even be able to listen to their pup’s heartbeat! After the exam, you can give your child the special job of holding on to the bag of information your veterinarian gives to you.
- Playing: There are lots of games your kids can play with your dogs. Have your child put your dog outside or in another room and then hide treats in a room (by the leg of a chair, under the corner of a mat, next to a wall. You want to encourage your children to hide the treats in places that aren’t just out in the open, so they when they let Fluffy inside, they can encourage her to use her nose and FIND the treats. Another fun game is hide and seek! That game doesn’t get old, no matter how old you are! Again, have your child put the dog in another room or outside and help your child choose a special hiding spot. Like, under a table, behind the couch, in another room with the door slightly closed. Once your child is safely hidden, go let your dog back in and tell your child to talk to the dog. In the beginning, the sound will help the dog learn to follow their voice and look for the child. Once the dog has found your kid, give them lots of praise to reward the “finding” behavior. As your dog gets better and better at finding, then your kids can stay silent and the true game of hide and seek can begin!