By Karen A. Soukiasian
As much as we’d like to feel a puppy or dog would complete the image of the ideal storybook family, a lot of times it doesn’t happen quite that way. Sadly, it can become a agonizing experience for all involved… especially for the puppy or dog. When all is said and done, it’s the animal that will ultimately pay the price for the wrong decision made by overly hopeful parents.
True, there are families where everything falls into place like magic! Next, there are families that just need a little help, to learn how to successfully include a pet into their lives and home. Finally, there are some who should not even consider adding a pet to their family unit.
One of the saddest things dog trainers witness, are children horrified of any puppy or dog; especially their own! Adept trainers recognize how damaging this situation can be and they will encourage and invite the entire family to participate in their pet’s training. Not only do trainers know consistency in training is vitally important, for the pet to make the needed associations for the training to be successful; it gives them time to observe and evaluate whether the pet is going to be welcomed or ultimately rejected and surrendered.
Before committing to a pet, do your homework! Check around. There are many trainers who offer positive reinforcement programs geared to help children learn how to be responsible dog owners. It is an investment worth making. As a rule, a child who has grown up with dogs, and has had age appropriate responsibilities for their dog, make the greatest dog owners as adults. They appreciate the experience and want to pass it on to their children.
Let’s face it, accidents happen! What more often than not causes the fear of a puppy or dog, especially a puppy, is they are untrained and clumsy, not to mention rambunctious! Those razor sharp milk teeth and “claws” also don’t help make the interactions positive. Being bowled over by an overzealous puppy or dog can be scary.
Bear in mind, from the puppy’s view, the experience can be equally traumatic. If a child is not taught to be thoughtful and gentle with the puppy or dog, the animal occasionally simply over reacts to being hurt! The animal may not have experience with children, so it too will benefit from obedience classes. It can be taught to play calmly, particularly with children.
Children with little or no experience on how to approach and play with a puppy or dog can be physical rough! Unless it is explained and demonstrated visibly, children normally cannot relate they are larger and stronger, and could inadvertently hurt their pet.
Simply because your child asks for a puppy, doesn’t mean they are ready for one. Before even considering it, ask yourself am I prepared to meet the responsibilities of pet ownership? The load of extra work will ultimately fall upon you!
Next, observe how your child interacts with the puppy or dog of friends or relatives. Are they fearful? Do they play rough? Are they comfortable around the animal? Do they understand sometimes sharp nails or teeth may accidentally hurt them, and the dog did not do it on purpose? Do they understand, just as they go to school to learn and make new friends, a puppy or dog has to be taught how to behave differently when they play with each other and when they play with people. These are important issues for a child to understand.
Then, the responsibility element has to be made crystal clear. Are they prepared to assume certain age appropriate responsibilities and be accountable for the care of their pet? Do they understand a dog is not a toy? Do they grasp a pet is not something you put away and forget about, until you want to play with it again? Have you made them aware having a pet means extra work for everyone? Have you explained to your child, just as they depend on you to take care of them, their dog depends on them to have their needs met,? Are you prepared to delegate age appropriate responsibilities? Even your two-year old, can be in charge of the placing the food bowl down at feeding.
As your child matures, they can be taught of the importance of being responsible for the daily needs of their pet. Do they realize those duties include: training, walking, grooming, watering, exercising, cleaning up after their dog, and of course, the best part, playing with their dog!
Bottom line: Be painfully honest with yourself. Including a puppy or dog into your family is a serious financial and emotional commitment. Be logical. Do not react emotionally! Give it a lot of thought. Pro and con every imaginable concern! If you are not 100% prepared to assume the majority of the responsibility, do yourself, your child and the especially the animal a favor, don’t do it! Shelters and rescues are already bursting at the seams! Remember, the final decision is up to you!
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