Preschool: Ages 4-5
Children this age can certainly pet their animals carefully from head down to tail. They can also drop a treat onto the floor for their cat or dog to eat. Children this age are far too young to feed or walk a pet, but they can assist mom, dad, or older sibling with these duties by holding onto the leash while they walk the dog. Sometimes theres an extra loop on the leash that a child of this age can help hold. Print off this customizable pet care chart for kids to help keep track of your childs duties!
At this age, learning how to pet your dog the safe way is your child’s first job. Young kids tend to grab and pull at a pet, especially its fur and tail, which won’t be pleasant for your pup and could result in a nip for your child. Show your child how to gently stroke your dog, while keeping their fingers clear of sensitive areas such as your pup’s eyes, ears, mouth, and bottom. Now that your child is learning to speak, another “job” is for them to learn how to say their dog’s name.
At age five, you can teach your child how to walk your dog by holding the leash. Don’t let your child hold the leash by themselves yet though. Why not buy a leash with an extra loop that your child can hold as you both “walk” your dog? What else can you do?
Stress the importance of keeping water and soap away from your dog’s face, and emphasize why it’s essential to rinse away all the shampoo so that your dog’s skin doesn’t get itchy and dehydrated. Explain why proper dog shampoo should always be used to bathe your pet, rather than human shampoo or dish soap.
Owning a dog is an excellent way of teaching kids to be responsible, as well as giving them the joy of totally reciprocated love and devotion from their furry friend.
At age four, your child should know how to pet the family dog safely. Encourage your child to use the dog’s name as well. Now, you might want to teach your child how to brush the dog too, always under close supervision and very gently. Let your child give the dog a treat by dropping one onto the floor and allowing the dog to pick it up.
To increase health and wellness
A 2017 study in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing reported that just a 10 minute visit with a pet reduced the stress hormone cortisol in adolescents. Imagine then, how having a pet around all the time will affect your child’s health.
“There are definite physiological changes within our body, when we are around pets,” says Dr. Zeigler. “Blood pressure decreases. Breathing gets slower, muscles relax. When you are in the presence of a pet you feel bonded and attached to, it increases the oxytocin levels-the love hormone in your brain.”
Caring For Your Senior Dog
Question: My 14-year-old daughter has been begging for a puppy for the past year. We had a dog a few years ago, but with both parents working, he never received much time from the family and it was a hassle to get my daughter to help out. We found a friend who offered to take him and havent had another pet since. Now that shes a teenager, she says she really needs something to love when her friends disappoint her, and she feels it would be comforting to have a puppy of her own. I understand that and would like to let her have the dog, but Im afraid that the same thing will happen _ the puppy will not receive enough attention and Ill be stuck with all the work again. In your experience, is the comforting worth the hassle, and what can I do to help her take more responsibility with the pet this time?
Answer: Young kids are notorious for asking for pets _ promising to walk, feed, clean up messes and give attention _ but then, within a few weeks, they lose interest and the parents take over the pet responsibilities. Shelters are often filled with animals that are bought with good intentions but are brought back when reality sets in and the family chooses to no longer take responsibility for raising the animal.
A 14-year-old, though, is often old enough to understand the responsibility of caring for a dog and most likely would gain a great deal of confidence from owing a puppy, especially if the puppys nature is a good fit with your daughters. It sounds like she needs something huggable right now, and when she cant count on her friends to be there for her, she may be able to find comfort in her dog.
If you decide to go this route, its wise to set up a contract even before looking for the dog. Decide what each family member will be responsible for in terms of walking, feeding, cleaning up messes and playing with the puppy. Ive found that its best with kids to tie these responsibilities into their daily privileges and activities. For instance, the rule of “you dont eat until the puppy eats” usually works well. Kids quickly get into the habit of feeding and watering the animal before they eat breakfast and dinner. Make the rule that your daughter has to play with the puppy for at least 15 minutes as well as walking him before the TV is turned on or she gets on the phone with her friends.
Other parents use ingenious methods to get their kids to clean up messes. Some (believe it or not) will move the mess to the childs bedroom carpet if the kid ignores it or refuses to clean it up. Others will dock the kids allowance for each mess the parent has to clean up, if the child agreed that is part of her pet responsibilities.
I dont believe that the threat of taking the puppy back to the shelter or kennel if the child proves irresponsible with the animal chores is appropriate. First of all, its not fair to the dog and, second, you most likely will not follow through with it and will just begin doing the work yourself. If you stand firm in terms of docking the allowance and not allowing your daughter privileges until her animal chores are complete, she will have no choice but to assume responsibility for her dog. And, hopefully, the puppy will give her the comfort shes desiring to help her get through the tumultuous teenage years.
For 20 years, psychologist Ruth Peters has specialized in treating children and families. If you have questions for her, or suggestions about what has worked for you during your childrens middle years, please send them to Middle Ground, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Please include your name and phone number, which wont be published.
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