Too many times parents get a dog for their child for the wrong reason, and that can result in disappointment.
Some children are ready for a pet while others are not. These tips will help you determine if your child is ready for a dog.
• Dogs are not toys. If your child wants a dog just to play with, he or she is not ready. It’s important for the child to realise the dog needs playtime, exercise, training, good nutrition and grooming. These responsibilities are a major part of dog ownership. Parents will become frustrated when chores associated with the dog are neglected, and your new pet will feel the tension.
• Does your child neglect homework until he or she is nagged to get it done? If the answer is yes, your child needs to conquer the responsibilities already in place before adding more with a dog.
• Does your child play rough with siblings or other children? Gentleness is key to successful pet ownership for children. Teach your child to be gentle with other children before considering a dog. It’s not the dog’s responsibility to calm the child down.
• Does your child have chores he or she does without fussing? Even small chores teach responsibility when they are done consistently. A small child’s chore may be as simple as putting toys in a bin after playing. An older child may set the table, help with dishes, or make the bed each day. Your child may be ready for a pet if you can depend on chores being done every day.
• Your child listens to and understands what you teach them about responsibility. This is important because a dog has needs that must be met. A dog’s drinking dish must always be clean and filled with fresh water. Meals need to be at the same time each day in order for the dog to know it will be regularly fed. Potty training is a top priority the whole family will help with, but when the child is home it may become their responsibility.
• You might try dog-sitting for a friend or relative for a few days to see how your children react to having a dog in the house. You will also get a fair idea of how much time they will spend caring for and playing with the dog.
If you decide to get a dog…
• Look for the right breed. Terriers and poodles have hair which is best if there are any allergies in the family because they don’t shed. Talk to the vet you plan to visit so you know how much you will be investing in yearly check-ups, shots and flea protection.
• Check out your local shelters first. You may find a young dog that falls in love with your family right away and is in desperate need of a forever home.
• Start making regular visits to your local shelters if you don’t feel your child is quite ready so they can experience the dogs and learn about the responsibilities of having a pet.
Children and dogs make a wonderful combination when they are ready for each other. Prepare your child and then choose the dog together as a family.