There is a tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence that children who grow up with pets in the home are more emotionally intelligent. This would include a better understanding of nonverbal communication as well as having more empathy. There is even a study that demonstrated that children exposed to pets and farm animals are less likely to suffer from asthma. However, a puppy is a living breathing being that can feel and needs proper care, including daily interaction and instruction.
Mom and Dad Must Parent the Puppy Too
You cannot just tie a bow on a puppy and present him as a gift to your child. Puppies need to be raised in a similar fashion as your child. They need to eat right, and they need to be trained in how to adapt to proper family life. Your child needs to participate in the proper development of the new puppy, but the lead parenting role does fall to you. Just like your child needed to be potty-trained, so does the new puppy. How many times have you said, "No!" to your child? You will probably do it twice as much to your new puppy. The bottom line is that you need to also teach yourself proper pet parenting before you can teach your child.
Shoving your dog's nose in the spot on the rug where he had an accident or using choke collars is not a proper way to train a family pet. Positive reinforcement training produces better and more consistent behavior. The ASPCA recommends training that uses treats, praise and play as well. Participating in a structured training class is great, but there are online positive reinforcement training videos that are great for getting started. Be sure to teach your child how to teach the new puppy properly. Do not let your child try to figure it out on his or her own.
Proper Veterinary Care
Your child can learn responsibility by keeping a calendar for your new puppy's vet visits, vaccinations and monthly heartworm medication. Yes, having a puppy costs money and time, but the rewards of having a faithful furry family member are worth it. Though you should keep a backup, your child should be instructed to record on a calendar, whether an electronic version or one tacked to the wall, all of the important reminder dates, including your puppy's birthday. Professionals, like those at 1st Pet Veterinary Centers, know that other things, like spaying or neutering your puppy can help keep them healthy and safe. Be sure to get your puppy spayed or neutered. This helps with everything from reducing the risk of some cancers to preventing unwanted puppies from being born.
Yes, you must monitor this as with any responsibility you give your child, and even more so since your puppy is a living creature that relies on proper care. Teach your child to establish a regular routine of feeding and giving fresh water to the puppy. The dog food chosen should be a premium brand selected for breed type and age. If you have more than one child, there should be a primary caregiver for the puppy. You are the supervisor to make sure the care gets done.
This should not be a problem with an active child. However, you must obey leash laws for your area. You should also not take chances with your puppy. Strictly enforce that at anytime the dog is outdoors, it must be visually supervised by someone. Even if you feel you can trust your dog 100 percent, there are other wandering dogs, wildlife and even pet thieves that can put you furry family member at great risk. For walking on a leash, be sure to follow through with positive reinforcement training to teach good leash manners to your new puppy and make sure your youngster walks the new dog several times per day, especially during the first few months of a puppy's life.
Enforce Mutual Respect
This is critically important. Depending on the age and emotional development of your child, a pet can sometimes be seen as more of an object than a living creature. It is important for your child to be supervised for a good amount of time during the training phase. And by training, it is meant the training of the child that will be interacting with the puppy. Yes, the puppy needs to learn how to properly act with its human family members, but the human family members need to know how to interact with the new puppy too. Instruct that tails and ears are not things to pull, and that the child should never cause pain to the puppy. Even a young puppy can bite if someone hurts him. Teach safe and proper play as an accidental tail wag or paw to the eye can hurt.
Having a pet dog is work for everyone. Even the new pet needs to learn how to best fit in. It takes some time to establish a routine with a new family member in the house, but the rewards of having a faithful companion that will be a friend, confidante, defender and so much more should not be denied to a child.