For many of us, life-long memories are built around the family dog. In fact, according to a recent Dog Chow Family Poll, 93% of Canadian parents say their dog makes the family feel complete. And according to parenting expert, Nanny Robina, pets play an important role in teaching children responsibility and worthwhile life lessons.
“Caring for the family dog can create a deep and gratifying bond,” she says, “which greatly benefits children and teaches them important lessons in accountability, independence and consistency.”
The good news is kids are eager to participate. More than half of the parents polled say their kids help out with the family dog, in some way. The most popular ways are by: playing (53%), feeding (32%), and walking the dog (31%).
Whether introducing a new pet into the home, or getting the little ones more involved in pet care, Nanny Robina recommends the following age-appropriate responsibilities:
• Toddler time: It is important for children to learn how to gently approach dogs. With adult supervision, guide your toddlers on how to politely pet them. Getting little ones comfortable with your four-legged friend sets them up for success as they grow older.
• Pets and preschoolers: Teach responsibility by getting your preschooler to help clean up a dog’s eating area and toys, when the dog isn’t around.
• Adolescent involvement (6-10): Encourage children to walk the dog, with parental accompaniment.
• Pre-teen plans (10-12): By this age, kids can get involved in the day-to-day responsibilities. Whether it is regularly filling the water bowl or taking dogs on their daily walk, having a scheduled task can help establish accountability.
• Teenage tasks (13+): Get your older children involved in some of the larger tasks, like grooming or bathing the dog. We all know pooches can be fun in the tub, but this requires a fair bit of coordination, especially when suds are involved.
The key to success is to make sure that children master each age-appropriate duty, one at a time, before moving on to the next. More information is available online at www.dogchow.ca.