Welcome to my journey! This blog is about my adventures in dog training, pet therapy work, rescue work and life with my menagerie of animals. Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kids and Pets

There is not much sweeter than seeing a child interacting or snuggling with a beloved pet. However that relationship must be allowed to blossom under close supervision by adults and with clearly defined rules for both parties. Before bringing a pet into the home sit down with your children and have a discussion about what is expected of them in terms of behavior with the pet, if they are old enough for such a discussion. The younger the child the more vigilant the supervision should be. Figure out as a family what the house rules will be; will your new pet be allowed on the furniture, will they be allowed to sleep in the child's room, walk to school with the family? Try to have all these things worked out BEFORE bringing a pet home.

 Including your children in the daily care for an animal can teach them responsibility, compassion and go a long way to having that wonderful bond between child and pet that is the ideal in our mind. However, getting a pet and expecting a child, no matter the age, to do all the care and upkeep for a pet is a recipe for disaster. Children do often lose interest, especially when the chores are not fun ones, and again age doesn't matter often a 7 year old can be more dedicated than a 15 year old. Ultimately it is your responsibility as the adult to care for the pet, just include your child as much as possible.

Children are great playmates for pets! Children rarely get bored of throwing a tennis ball over and over and over. They are really excited about teaching their dog or cat new things (YES, you can train a cat. It just takes a little more patience!) Children often have better timing than adults too! There are lots of fun things your child can teach your pet. Get them involved in the training classes, a good trainer will welcome well behaved children to class. Usually a good age to bring to a formal class setting is 7 and over, but depending on the child you could go as young as 5. Just remember you need to be able to focus on the trainer and what you are being asked to do, so your child needs to be able to allow you to do that! One of my favorite games to have my girls help with is 'round robin recalls'. Each child and/or family member goes to different corners of a room (or out in a fenced yard if you've progressed to the distraction phase of training) and each person takes a turn calling the dog to them and rewarding him when he gets there. This is a great game for kids because they are usually very excited and animated which makes the game more fun for the dog which in turn creates a much more solid recall! This is also a great game for rainy, cold or super hot days when outside play is not possible.

Having your child teach your dog a trick is a great way to incorporate fun into the training! Kids LOVE when their dogs do tricks, they don't care about perfect loose leash walking or a 30 minute down stay, they want a dog that can high five, roll over and crawl on their belly! Having a child teach your dog how to 'shake' or give a 'high five' is a relatively easy process and happens pretty quickly. **Caveat: if your dog is sensitive about their feet being touched have your child pick a different trick that doesn't require foot handling, an adult should work on body handling before a child gets involved** To teach shake, have your child ask your dog to sit, then, with a treat in your childs' closed hand, hold that treat to the dogs nose while gently reaching for one of the legs. Gently touch the back wrist area of the dog and when he lifts it, say, "shake" and deliver the treat. A handful of repetitions should have your dog lifting his paw as your child reaches for it and then with practice your child can then hold out his hand say the command and the dog will offer his paw!

There are so many other great tricks you can have your child work on with your dog(remember a cat can do this stuff too!), that I could go on for days! Instead I am going to give you some good links to check out and have you discover for yourself all the wonderful ways kids can interact with their pets!

ASPCA website has some great ways kids can get involved in caring for their pets.

AKC has a lot of great information on junior handling, safe behavior around dogs and some fun coloring sheets teaching about dog safety.

Kiko Pup if you look this up on Youtube you will find a ton of really fun, positive training tips and games

Kyra Sundance has a whole Trick Dog program, you can purchase the how-to book and workbook and at the end you can earn a trick dog title of various levels! Sure to make any child proud! She also has a puppy trick book too!

So have fun with your kids and pets and watch their bond grow into a lifelong friendship!

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