How to Keep Kids Interested in Caring for Their New Dog
After the novelty wears off, it can be difficult to get children to continue caring for a new dog. To keep them interested, you should try to make pet care fun by sharing fun responsibilities and incentivizing responsible behavior. You should also try to keep things positive by not overburdening your child with chores and by praising them when they complete a task. Finally, you can help ensure that your children continue caring for the dog by modeling responsible behavior and encouraging them to learn more about their pet.
Making Pet Care Fun
1. Share “fun” responsibilities. Depending on the age of your children, you should encourage them to help with chores that they may consider fun, like walking or exercising the dog. These activities teach your children responsibility while allowing them to engage in the more positive aspects of pet ownership. If your children only do the boring chores and fail to enjoy to fun things about having a dog, they will not be interested in the pet for very long.
- Besides walking or playing with the dog, fun activities can include brushing or washing the dog.
- Children under 6 should not be allowed to walk the dog. In addition, children between 6 and 10 years old should not be allowed to walk the dog without an adult nearby.
2. Introduce new training. Finding new training activities for your dog is another way to keep your kids engaged with caring for their pet. This can include simple commands like “sit” and “stay” or more complex things like clicker training. As long as you let the children participate, training can be a great way to keep your children invested in dog care.
3. Incentivize caring for the dog. If your children’s interest in caring for the dog is waning, you might perk their interest by providing an incentive. This might be particularly useful for older children and teenagers. Consider giving them a monetary incentive or reward them with a “fun” dog-related activity every time they complete a “less fun” dog chore. You can also attach perks to completing certain tasks, like allowing your child to stay up a little longer or letting them stay out with their friends later.
- Make a list of dog-related responsibilities and provide rewards when your child completes each task. Or, reward the child who completes the most tasks at the end of the week, if you have more than 1 kid.
- For example, if your older kids refuse to pick up dog poo when they walk the dog, ask them to take a picture of the poo in a bag and then pay them for it when they show it to you.
- If your child cleans the dog’s crate, you might reward them with extra time playing with the dog.
4. Incorporate play into caring for the animal. Try to make chores seem less stale and boring by incorporating elements of play. Incorporate a points system for completing chores or attach the tasks to fun activities. Finding a way to enliven pet care with a little play will help keep your kids involved in caring for your dog.
- For example, when you groom your dog, you could encourage your children to leave the brushed out dog hair for birds to make nests. After you brush its hair, put the clumps of dog hair in a bag and then let your children put the clumps on trees and bushes around your home. Eventually, birds will come along and use the hair to make their nests.
Keeping Pet Care Positive
1. Talk about what chores your kids can handle. As your children get older, you should talk with them about what pet responsibilities they feel capable of performing. Make sure that you give them something that they can handle. They will feel more empowered and better able to care for the dog if they complete an easy chore regularly as opposed to a more difficult chore less frequently.
- Kids under the age of 5 can help with some small aspects of caring for your dog but they should always be supervised.
- Children between ages 6 and 10 can assume many dog-related tasks like grooming and cleaning up after the pet.
- Kids over the age of 10 can perform all aspects of caring for your dog on their own.
2. Praise your kids every time they complete a chore. Positively reinforcing your child’s responsibility will help it become a recurring behavior. Whenever your child helps care for your dog, you should let them know how much you appreciate it. As they get older you can limit the amount of praise you give them, but you should still congratulate them from time to time.
- You might say things like, “Thank you for feeding the dog. I really appreciate that, and I know that Rufus does too.” Or, “Thanks for walking Sparky. He appreciates the exercise.”
3. Do not punish your child with pet-related chores. One way to turn your children off pet-related chores is by associating punishment with caring for your dog. If your child does something wrong, do not punish them by assigning them extra dog-related chores. Ultimately, the child may become frustrated and resentful towards the dog.
Maintaining Proper Pet Care
1. Model good pet care. One of the surest ways to make sure that your children continue in caring for your dog is by modeling good pet care yourself. If you are a responsible pet owner, your children will likely follow your model. This does not mean that you need to do everything. However, you do need to show them what regular and responsible pet ownership looks like
- For example, as a parent, you should model how to feed the dog. Feeding your pet regularly and maintaining its diet is a good way to build good habits for the entire family.
2. Remind the children of the dog’s needs. If your children are skirting their pet care responsibilities, you should remind them in an even tone that your dog needs food, water, and exercise like everyone else. Do not yell at the children or scold the children for failing to care for the dog. A gentle reminder should spur some action. If you berate your children, they will likely develop some negative emotions towards you and the dog.
- Remember to emphasize the importance of your children’s responsibilities. Reminding them that their pet’s general health and well-being depends on them may help them be more responsible.
- Explain to your children how the dog must feel when it is well taken care of versus when it is neglected in order to help your children learn empathy.
3. Encourage your children to learn about your dog. Have your children learn about your dog’s breed and history. Encourage them to research the special traits of your dog's breed. If you adopted the dog, research its history. Knowing more about your dog and where it came from can help your children feel more invested in the dog and caring for it.
- Contact the shelter or rescue group that you adopted the dog from, or talk with the person you adopted it from.
- Pick up books about the specific breed of dog you have as well as training books to help motivate your child to learn more about the dog and care for it properly.
- Watch shows about training and caring for dogs on TV or online.