How to Teach Children to Care for the Dog

How many times have you heard it: "Can I please have a dog? I swear I'll take care of it!" Children love dogs and giving your children a dog can be a great way to teach responsibility. But you must also be willing to teach your children to care for the dog.

How many times have you heard it: "Can I please have a dog? I swear I'll take care of it!" Children love dogs and giving your children a dog can be a great way to teach responsibility. But you must also be willing to teach your children to care for the dog. They must be taught the proper way to feed, groom, walk and reprimand the dog if they are ever going to live up to that heartfelt promise. Give your children and the dog every chance to cohabitate peacefully and without argument.

Show your children when and how much to feed the dog. Feed times are most important and are usually the activity that the parent winds up taking over. If, however, you make it a habit to tell your children to fee the dog, it will become second nature. More importantly, however, you must show children how much to feed the dog so that he doesn't get sick. I've found that it's easiest to use a plastic measuring cup as the dog's feed scooper. You can draw a line with black magic marker so that your children know how to fill the cup.

Demonstrate proper interaction behavior for your children. Some kids -- particularly very young children -- will play too rough with the dog, creating a hostile situation. Teach your children that pulling on the dog's tail and ears isn't acceptable and that you must always be gentle. I can't count the number of times I've had to say "Play nice!" when my children have gotten too rambunctious with the dog, but you'll just have to continue repeating it until they learn how to play nicely.

Teach about exercise with the dog. Sometimes giving your children a dog can help in other areas. In this world of video games and the Internet, many children lack sufficient exercise, so encourage them to take the dog on a walk or play in the backyard. This promotes a healthy lifestyle and increases the chances of your children taking proper care of the dog.

Teach your children to pick up their toys. Tiny plastic toys can be dangerous for children and puppies alike, so make sure your children remember to pick up their toys when they're done playing. Not only does this teach your children how to care for the dog, but it also promotes safe and clean living. You'll have added ammunition to make sure the game room and bedrooms are spotless.

Make a schedule for potty breaks. Unless your dog lives outdoors all the time, your children will have to learn when and how to let the dog outside to toilet. Impress upon your children the need for the dog to have scheduled potty breaks; if he isn't let outside to go, he'll find somewhere in the house to do his business. Let your children know that if they forget to let the dog outside, they will be responsible for cleaning up the resulting mess (only for older children).

Prepare a chore chart. If you have more than one child, you'll probably want to split up the responsibility of taking care of the dog. For this purpose, create a chore chart for your children to follow. When they complete a task, they can mark the chore off the chart and go on with their business. After only a couple of months, they probably won't need it anymore.