In a previous blog post we discussed how to introduce your child and your puppy to each other. In this post we discuss the next step in the relationship – assigning tasks to children of all ages. This will ensure that everyone in the family shares some responsibility for the new dog.
As soon as your puppy is brought into your home and is safely settled in, all children, regardless of age, should be assigned specific tasks to involve them in taking care of the new family member. These tasks should be age-appropriate so that each child can easily manage the assignment, either on her own or with your help. Too much or too little responsibility can be discouraging to a child and can tarnish the relationship that he/she should have with your new pet.
What Can Toddlers Do?
Toddlers (up to three years old) can pick up the puppy’s toys and put them back in the basket. Toys that are left out can be a hazard both to the family and your puppy. Toddlers can also hand treats as a reward during training and for good behavior. And when it’s time for your puppy to go to the vet to get his shots, your child can be there to see that the little pup gets shots just like he does!
Pre-Schoolers & Young Kids
Pre-schoolers and young kids (up to eight years old) can help, under supervision, with feeding the puppy and making sure that his water bowl is never empty. Children around this age can also take the puppy out (with a leash) for bathroom breaks and can assist in bathing and brushing the puppy.
However, other grooming procedures like ear cleaning, nail clipping, and teeth brushing should be done by the adults and older kids. Youngsters can also hold the leash of a small puppy during walks, but have older children walk larger dogs.
Children Ages 9 and Up
Kids from the age of nine and up should be able to do all of the above tasks. In addition, they can help clean up after the pet and help with house training and basic training commands, such as “Sit” and “Come”.
Even if some of the tasks mentioned are less than enjoyable to do, children should realize that doing these chores is part of owning a dog. Realizing all characteristics of a responsible dog owner early on in their lives can help them become informed and responsible adult dog owners.
Two other puppy tasks that your child can participate in, regardless of the child’s age, are keeping the dog physically fit and mentally healthy. This can be achieved by regular exercise and socialization from the moment your puppy arrives in the home.
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