A study by the American Animal Hospital Association found what most people already knew to be true: parents are the primary caretakers of their children’s pets. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If you set a few rules for dogs and kids before bringing home a puppy, you can get your kids to do some of the work, ease your dog’s transition into his new family, and keep everyone safe.
Make a dog care schedule
A schedule helps your dog and kids understand your expectations. Your dog can get to know his new pack quickly when there’s a routine, and your kids will know what they need to do to care for him. Determine who’s responsible for the following tasks and when they should be done each day.
When the kids should feed the dog
Generally, puppies less than six months old should be fed three times a day, dogs between six and twelve months should be fed twice daily, and dogs older than a year should be fed once or twice a day. Ask your veterinarian for specific guidelines for your dog.
When the dog should be walked
Scheduled bathroom breaks speed the house training process and ensure someone does the job that’s least likely to get done.
How often the kids play with the dog and for how long
Plan at least twenty minutes of exercise daily to keep your dog healthy and out of trouble. Play times should include obedience training so your kids learn how to handle a dog properly and your dog learns to obey commands from everyone, not just you.
Set activity zones
Designated zones help establish your dog’s routine and eliminate confusion about what your kids are allowed to do with him and where. Assign the activities that make up your dog’s day to particular areas in and around your house. Also, let the kids know which rooms the dog is allowed into and which are off-limits. Important places to note include:
- Where the dog sleeps
- Where he eats
- Where he goes to the bathroom
- Where he should be kept when he can’t be supervised
For your dog’s safety, take time to puppy proof your house and these areas before you bring him home.
Teach kids respect for dogs
Once your kids have been assigned their tasks and understand the basic rules of dog care, they should be taught how to treat dogs with respect. As The Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief website advocates in their article on dogs and kids, make it clear that roughhousing, ear-pulling, poking, smothering hugs, and other such behavior can hurt the dog or cause him to bite. You can use a stuffed animal to explain to younger children how to pet and hold a puppy without traumatizing your dog. Learn more about children and dog bite prevention.
By setting the rules before you adopt a dog for kids, you can commit them to doing some of the work in caring for their pet, make your dog feel welcome in his new pack, and keep everyone safe.