Kids love dogs and most will, at some point in their life, beg to have a puppy in their home. Some children will even go so far as to promise to help take care of the puppy in order to win over their parents and convince them that a puppy will be a great addition to the family.
Before running out and getting a puppy or a dog for your child-friendly home, be sure to teach your young children how to interact with and take care of a dog. Here are a few tips on how to do this:
Interacting with Dogs
It is very important for young children to know how to approach a dog, especially one that isn’t their own. Set a good example by showing them that they should ask permission to approach a dog and to never approach when an adult is not present. It is also important to show them that they should let a dog sniff their hand first so the dog can assess if you are in fact safe to them.
Behaviour around dogs
There are certain behaviours that should never be performed on a dog, be it your family pet or any other dog that they come across. For starters, they should learn to never pull a dog’s tail or ears. It is also important to teach them never to run away from a dog, as it can evoke their predatory instinct.
Show your child the best places to pet a dog whether it is your dog or not. Most dogs don’t like to have their paws touched and they definitely don’t like heavy handedness. Soft strokes are best, especially on the chin and chest. Once trust is establishing, they can then pet the dog on the back and neck.
Taking Care of a Dog
Make a list if all of the responsibilities that your children are responsible for. It is better to give easy daily chores like filling the water bowl or putting toys away, with more difficult chores being given once a week. This could be things like helping to give the dog a bath or cleaning its crate (if it is crate trained). Remember that chores should be age appropriate. You don’t want your 4 year old brushing your dog, while a 10 year old is old enough to do more than fill a water bowl.
You of course don’t want to scare your children, but you should educate them on what will happen if the dog is not taken care of properly. Meaning, if they forget to fill the water bowl, feed them, walk them or bath them then it could harm the dog. This will teach them responsibility and also educate them on why a dog needs to be cared for properly and why their pet chores need to be done.
Make an effort to praise your children whenever they perform one of their pet chores without you having to tell them to do it. Positive reinforcement will increase the chances of them doing all of their pet chores without being asked to do them and will also make them feel good about themselves. It will also help them with their independence. Decrease the praises over time, from doing it daily to every few days, then perhaps weekly. But make it a point to be sure that they know you are proud of them for helping to take care of the dog.