Teaching Your Child Responsibility Through Dog Ownership

“Can we have a dog?” is one of the most common questions kids ask their parents. Almost as soon as a child is old enough to speak, he’s asking for a pet.

Even if you don’t think that dogs are the best pets in the universe, you should consider adopting one for you and your child to raise together. Dogs are loving, loyal creatures who are almost always ready to play with anybody in the house.

More importantly, they’re living things that require love and care. This responsibility, which you can talk to your child about every day of his life, is best taught through doing. Having your child help take care of a dog will show him the real meaning of what you’ve been saying.

Before you head to the pet store or animal shelter, have a discussion with your child about the responsibilities of owning any sort of pet. Make sure that he understands the dog’s needs, and that he is in charge of them.

While you can’t expect your five-year-old to pay vet bills, you can put him in charge of other dog-related needs. He can be the one who feeds the dog. He can be responsible for keeping the water dish full. And he can definitely go with you to walk the dog and play.

The dog-related housework assigned to your child will help teach responsibility. He might forget occasionally at first, but gentle reminders will help the new routine and duties stay in his mind.

You should then have your child help you prepare the house for the new dog. Getting food and water dishes is a good place to start. Making a bed for the new pet is another good idea.

While you’re doing this, think about what the dog will destroy. Puppies love to eat shoes. If you have your child help you put these things out of the new dog’s reach before the arrival, he’ll be used to having to do this as long as the dog is in that stage of life.

Now it’s time to pick out the new member of the family. Animal shelters and pet stores are great places to look, but you can also find dogs in the classified section of your newspaper and through word-of-mouth.

Eventually someone is going to name this puppy. Solicit suggestions from your child. He might come up with very unusual ideas, but consider what he says. You might not want to name the dog “Boofus” or “Tarzan.” But if these are names that your child likes, and he’s the one learning the life lesson, his ideas should be considered.

As dog and child bond and grow together, they’ll teach each other more things than you imagined possible. With proper training, the puppy will grow into a well-behaved dog who adores your entire family. And while you and your child are teaching the dog, whether he be a Boofus or a Fido, to fetch and stay, he’ll be teaching your family about love and caring, responsibility and being good masters.

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  1. What an excellent article! Animals are a big responsibility and teaching our kids that is so important. And teaching them even when things go wrong with the animal, does not mean we give up on them. I try and teach that to kids everytime we visit our local schools. Having a paralyzed dachshund is extra work, but really is quite easy. Involving the kids by showing them how I care for her help teach them that they too can take care of their animals if something goes wrong.
    And the bond that children can form with pets is priceless… and so right, the many lessons that pet will teach that child.

    ~Barbara Techel
    Author of the multi-award winning, “Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog”

  2. Although I generally agree with and love Big Paw and it’s advice, I must say I am shocked that you are directing people towards pet stores in this post. Most animal welfare advocates and rescue operators know that pet store dogs come from puppy mills and puppy mills only. Yes it’s important to teach kids the proper way to take care of a pet, and the responsibilities that go along with it, and kudos to you on that note, but that starts with the responsibility of teaching him where the pets come from and why there are so many homeless ones in this country, because of irresponsible puppy millers and Internet/Classifieds breeders.

  3. Nice article but I agree with Jaime. There are a lot of homeless puppies out there.. pure breed or mix breed (designer dogs as the pet stores like to call them). Did you know 70,000 dogs and cats are born in the US everyday? Did you know that only 10,000 babies are born in the US everyday? That means for each dog and cat to have a home each person in the US would need to own 7. That is 28 cats and/or dogs for a family of 4!!

    Please keep up your good articles and I would love to direct people to this post but do not want people thinking buying an over priced in breed sick puppy mill puppy from a pet store or buying a puppy from some idiot who didn’t spay their dog is a good idea.

    http://www.petfinder.com and http://www.adoptapet.com is the way to start OR to get a dog from a legitimate breeder is important just follow some simple rules… #1. breeder is registered with their breed specific group. #2. dogs are fixed and a contract is signed for you to buy one #3. they are only breeding one type of dog. #4. they have maybe 1 litter a year. #5. mom and dad are HOUSE PETS!!!!!!!!!

  4. Hi
    thank you for sharing this good article. I really eajoy reading it. Kids and dogs are bound each other closely is because dogs just like the little kids – the way they act, the way they think…you can just tell from their reactions. Kids and dogs are good companions to each other…

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