Have your kids been begging you for a dog, and you’re finally ready to relent? You know bringing a dog into your home means you’re adding a new responsibility, but your kids may not know how much work can go into taking care of a pet. If this is the first four-legged pet your kids will have, you’ll need to instruct them on the care of a new dog, and explain how the dog’s health and happiness depend on you. Here are a few things to remember as you prepare your home and family for the new arrival.
Discuss the responsibilities.
Who will take care of the dog’s food? Who will walk the dog? You’ll need to discuss these questions at a family meeting. If you feel comfortable assigning tasks, you can assign each family member a task related to the dog so everyone knows what’s expected when the dog arrives.
Consider the following tasks related to having a dog:
- Cleaning any crates or cages
- Changing newspapers
- Putting out fresh water and food
- Grooming tasks including brushing, nails, etc.
- Making sure the dog gets plenty of exercise and play
- Walking the dog and cleaning up any waste on the walk
Each task is an important one related to the care and well-being of your new family pet, so make sure that everyone is aware of the responsibilities the household will be assuming with the dog’s arrival. Once the task is decided for each family member, make a chart and stick it in a prominent place.
Give your children examples of how to take care of an animal.
If you’ve patiently explained what it takes to care for an animal, but want your children to have some more information, you may look for media on the subject. Just by visiting your local bookstore, you’ll be able to find plenty of information on pet care for kids, with many titles written in kid-friendly language with pictures. Here are a few to consider:
- How to Care for Your Dog: A Color and Learn Guide for Kids
- Arthur’s New Puppy
- Puppy Training for Kids: Teaching Children the Responsibilities and Joys of Puppy Care, Training, and Companionship
- My Dog! A Kid’s’ Guide to Keeping a Happy and Healthy Pet
Have a practice session with your children.
If you have a family member or friend who is comfortable with leaving their dog with you overnight, enlist them to help prepare your family for a dog. Involve your kids in every step of the dog’s care for a day, so they get hands-on experience of what the daily life of a dog owner may be like.
No dogs who can have a sleepover at your home? Use a plush dog as your practice puppy by treating it like you would a real dog, so you can demonstrate how bringing home a dog changes your routine.
Choose a dog that fits your lifestyle and home.
Not every dog is right for every home. You should do your research to see what breeds are good with children, and which dogs will fit your lifestyle. Do you live in an apartment? Some breeds will be better suited for apartment living than others.
Once you’ve picked your dog breed out, don’t forget to dog-proof the home by removing anything that could be dangerous and damaging to dogs.
Get the proper dog supplies.
Before you bring your new dog home, have all of the supplies you need for your new family member ready, so it will be easier to acclimate the dog to his new surroundings. You can visit your local pet-store and receive recommendations on what you should purchase, but make sure you have the following:
- Leash and collar
- Dog food and treats
- Dog bed and crate (if crate-training)
- Food and water bowl (if possible, get 2 of each, so you can replace them immediately upon washing)
- Brush and comb
- Toys and chew sticks
You can also invest in a baby gate to keep your dog from going up stairs or in rooms where pets aren’t allowed. It will also keep the dog in an area where your children can safely interact with the dog, especially if you have very young children. Be sure to talk to your children about how to pet and show affection to the dog, and to not pull its tail or ears.
Check with your local government about dog registration rules.
This task isn’t for your kids necessarily, but needs to be addressed. What are the local laws regarding dog registration? You may need to register your dog, and so you should investigate what a license requires, so you can prepare properly. In many states, it’s the law, so be sure you research your state and local government ordinances. The license tag will also provide some protection for you getting your dog back if it goes missing.
After you’ve followed these steps, you’re ready to welcome a dog to your home! I hope your children will have many years of love and companionship with their new dog.