Kids and animals go well together – it’s a romantic image to think of a young child and their trusty pet dog – but there’s also some serious benefits to owning animals when you have a young family. Children learn a sense of responsibility and how to care for something, and, painful though it is, it teaches them the cycle of life and death.
At Potter Paws HQ we see lots of unexpected ‘side effects’ of our children growing up alongside our dogs so we thought we’d share them with you in this blog.
Food for thought
Dogs and food are very closely linked: certainly in our house, wherever you find a dog, food will be nearby. Naturally, there are lots of conversations about what the dog can and can’t eat; what we need to be careful of, in case it gets dropped; and, for most dogs, mealtimes are a big deal and kids may well get involved in helping prepare these.
Children will pick up on all this chatter and, in getting them to think about what is and isn’t healthy for their dog, we are introducing them to the concept of healthy eating. Many dogs have their food weighed out for them, so they eat the right amount for their size. This introduces the idea of portion control. Snacking between meals should be healthy for dogs, just as it should for humans, so there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn and used by parents to help educate the kids as well as the family pet. Our youngest daughter always reaches for a banana as a snack as she knows Dave LOVES them and will follow her around and offer a trick or two until she shares it!
Training is for life
Let’s be honest, kids and puppies have a huge amount in common. Letting kids be involved in puppy training is great for setting expectations about the puppy’s role in the family unit and how to interact together. However, it’s also gently instilling a sense of responsibility in children, as they learn that their actions and reactions all have consequences. A great life lesson, as the same is obviously true of all their human interactions.
Once puppy training has passed by, there are many ways training can be built into a dog’s life and children will also benefit from continuing to work with their dog. The concepts of commitment and routine can be introduced, and kids feel a sense of achievement as they train their dog to have fun with a new trick or two.
A time and a place
Routines are as important for kids as they are for dogs and a busy family will definitely benefit from regular and established ways of doing things like mealtimes, getting ready for school/work and bedtime. By paying attention to what the dog needs to do, you can have a positive impact on the kids too! Take bedtime: teaching the dog that it’s time for calm and quiet before going to sleep is a great way to create a relaxing environment for the children too. This is hugely beneficial if your kids find it hard to calm down as they may choose to sit and read to their dog.
The same applies to ‘mad-half-hours’ – again something dogs and children have in common. There’s a time and a place for playing and, when it’s done right everyone has fun. Extreme over excitement, however, tends to end in tears. Dogs are very susceptible to stress when over stimulated and, just as a child might start to be overwhelmed, they can become rough or bark noisily if everything gets too much.
So, there you have it. Are you surprised by how much dogs have in common with younger family members? I guess that’s why they really do make the best of friends. One last piece of advice though: kids are very much the ‘support act’ when it comes to dog ownership. Even if they are enthusiastic to start with, it’s the adults in the family who will end up doing the lion’s share of the work while the kids take part in the fun stuff. So, as parents, you need to really WANT the dog in the first place!
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