Teaching Your Children Responsibility Through Owning a Dog

Kevin Gardner

Children can learn a lot from a dog. Allowing your child to care for a pet teaches him or her that animals need care and attention just like they do. That they are dependent on us for things like food, attention, and love. By including them in pet care, they will understand what it means to love and nurture an animal and that even though they are little, their help means a lot.

Chores Teach Responsibility

Chores teach children that they have something to contribute to the world and that they are capable, and boosts their self-esteem. The little ones beam with pride when they do something that is considered for “big kids.” Things like loading the dishwasher, emptying the trash, and filling the dog’s food and water dishes teach them that they can do things to help the family as well.

When Your Child Wants a Pet

This is a perfect situation to begin teaching your child to be responsible. You should only grant the request if you really want a dog, but tell them that if you get the dog that they must help you care for it.

Explain that the dog needs food and water every day, it needs to have time to play and have fun, and it will need someone to brush its fur to keep it clean and healthy. You can decide how and when to bathe the dog, and if they should help with this chore.

Age-appropriate tasks for 4-5 year olds:

  • Telling you when the dog’s food dish needs filling.
  • Wash and dry the dish when it gets dirty
  • Brush the dog after you’ve shown them how to do it gently.

5 - 6 year olds can:

Feed the Dog

Feed the dog by putting a designated amount of food into their dish and refill the water bowl as needed. They can do this at a set time every day as part of their regular chores so it seems natural.

Being hungry is something kids can understand, so telling them in the beginning that keeping the dog’s dish full keeps him from being hungry is a concept they “get.” Because the dog can’t feed itself, it is dependent on someone doing it. Be ready for the occasional odd questions the first few times like, “Mom, can dogs eat grapes?” You may have to firmly explain that those dog treats that look and smell like bacon, aren’t really bacon. That dogs can only eat food meant for dogs.

Potty Training

They can help you train the dog to go outside to potty. Just like when they learned to use the toilet, the dog has to learn to do his business outside. Let them take the dog outside at regular intervals as long as both the child and dog are in a safe area and both can be supervised.

Train The Dog

Show them how to train a dog to sit, stay, and roll over. They can reward the dog with a treat when he does what they ask.

Play with The Dog

Dogs love to run, play, and fetch. Throwing a ball, frisbee, or a stick and getting the dog to bring it back not only gives them exercise which keeps them healthy, but it’s fun and they enjoy running after the ball.

Increase Their Responsibilities as They Get Older

As your child gets older he or she can take on more responsibility when it comes to the dog and other things around the house. If they are old enough to take the dog on walks they will need to bring a bag to pick up the dog poop because it is considered littering. Plus, it’s not a nice thing to leave where others may step in it while they’re walking.

As a parent, you should supervise your child and give them only as much help as they need, or ask for. Doing too much for them takes away from them learning to do things on their own.