HOW TO TEACH YOUR KIDS TO TAKE CARE OF PETS
In the last article, I wrote about Speaking Dog and how they communicate with us. In an effort to continue helping the coolest dogs on the planet have a much more fulfilling life amongst us people, I thought it would be good to instill the good habits in youngsters, this article can help with that.
OK, I want my pets and kids to get along, but how can I involve my kids in pet care while staying safe?
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WHY SHOULD KIDS HELP TAKE CARE OF PETS
In my experiences in life with dogs, the people who help me, and friends that volunteer at shelters and rescue efforts I have heard some stories about children being attacked or bitten by dogs. Some of them disturbing and usually not the dog’s fault. Granted, there are some aggressive dogs out there but still, if an owner knows this they should be responsible enough to handle that situation. That is pretty much why there are rescue efforts.
Some of the volunteers I had talked to at a shelter, traded stories about various rescue experiences. The topic turned to dog bites, and I relayed a story of a 10-year-old who was bitten by their dog during feeding time. One of the volunteers said, “Well, that’s on the parents! Children shouldn’t be allowed to feed dogs–it’s unsafe!” (Still not the dog’s fault)
Now, if your dog has resource issues or if he’s a brand-new addition to your family, or if you have some other legitimate issue you’re working on with your pup, sure, involving your kids in that area probably isn’t a great idea. You do need safety measures in place.
However, when it comes to basic pet care, it’s so important to get kids involved. Why?
Kids learn how important it is to care for another, to meet the needs of someone other than themselves.
Plus, it helps your pets bond with your kid.
PET CARE CHORES FOR LITTLE KIDS
You know your kid best. You know how well he or she listens to and follows instructions. You know the depth of his or her still-developing motor skills. Here are four ideas to get you started, knowing you may need to adapt them to your kiddo’s abilities:
Water: Every morning, Bryce, my youngest, comes downstairs, and the first thing he does is get the water bowl and make sure it is full. I am up early in the morning and have already done this once. He has learned to give them water first thing so they are ready to go out before he leaves the house after getting ready.
Food: If your dog eats kibble from a bowl, scooping and filling is an awesome chore under supervision. This chore is another one that is right out of the gate in the morning. They are usually ready to eat when they get up will not have more until I get home.
If you are teaching a small child, make sure you assist with portions so they are not getting too much or too little. If they are quite small, there may be messes. Do not get angry about this, they will get better with practice and it is worth the learning curve. It is another opportunity to teach them to clean up the mess they have made too.
Grooming: No, your little kid shouldn’t be wielding a pair of nail clippers, but teaching your kid how to brush out your pup is a fantastic exercise in care and compassion. Don’t expect your dog to come away fully groomed, of course, and this is an area where you know your dog and kid best: If your dog hates grooming, skip this one.
Ours love it, they don’t care who has the brush as long as they are using it on them!
If you have the opportunity to bath them outdoors on a nice summer day, involve the little ones! This can be loads of fun for all!
Training: Your small child won’t be able to teach your pup complicated tricks or obedience; however, he or she most certainly can get involved in what you’re training. Here are two examples in our house: Every time we leave for the day, we ask Cooper, Cora, and Jasmine to go to their crate and give them the treat to work on. Now not only do they listen to the kids, but they also look forward to it. Another fun one is to help your dog learn “touch” to your kiddo’s outstretched hand. This is an awesome way to get them to work together in a fun way that rewards your pup.
Beyond that, little kids always want to help, so asking them to hold the roll of pickup bags or clipping a second leash to your pup’s harness so they can help “walk” the dog or running to get the clippers out of the drawer for you to groom, and so on, all help your kiddo feel important and involved while learning how to care for your dog.
PET CARE CHORES FOR BIG KIDS
Bigger kids are limited only by what’s expected of them…
Truly, if you teach and model what needs to happen, and then you empower your kids to do it, they will.
Some examples of pet care chores for big kids:
- Feeding and watering
- Cleaning the water fountain and replacing the filter
- Scooping the litter box
- Picking up the yard
- Stuffing puzzle toys
- Training with you and your dog, including taking training classes together
- Daily playtime
Kids with their licenses can take the family pet to the vet as long as they’ve been walked through how to do it responsibly. This used to be my responsibility in high school.
You’ll notice neither list included walking the dog. It’s not that big kids aren’t capable. They are. However… and, again, this is something you need to decide for your kid, your dog, and your neighborhood… there are too many potential safety issues that require a responsible adult. Again, this is in my opinion. You might live somewhere without a loose dog here or there. Your dog might not react to a cat crossing the street. Your kid might be able to walk around the block without his or her face buried in her phone (this is all the teens in my neighborhood walking their dogs…). Honestly, this is a judgment call you need to make. That said, walking and hiking together as a family is super important and models responsible behavior! My kids have been through all of this now and I would trust them to take my dogs anywhere with them.
Ultimately, though, as the responsible adult, you need to decide what chores your kids can take on, then you need to teach them how to do them. You’ll probably have to review it dozens of times and clean up spills along the way, but don’t let that deter you from empowering your kid to take on additional responsibility and family contributions! In the short term, it might require more from you, but in the long term, you’re teaching your kid compassion and responsibility.
How do your kids, nieces, and nephews, or friends help take care of the animals around you?
Have you taught and empowered kids to help?
What questions do you have about taking the steps needed to teach your kiddos how to help take care of your pets?
Let us know in the comments below!
If you have a picture of your coolest dog on the planet with your kid working together and would like to share, fill out the form below and upload a pic with names and I will post it in the gallery on this website. There will also be one picture a month randomly selected to get a cool prize!
For all the coolest dogs on the planet and their kids!