Teaching Kids About Dog Care: How to Effectively Assign Responsibilities?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Watching a child grow up with a dog can be incredibly rewarding. It’s a pure love affair as both dogs and kids are almost biologically tuned to care for each other unconditionally. Apart from being your child’s best friend, a pet also teaches your kid about the responsibilities of taking care of other lives. While kids mean well, giving them the entire burden of taking care of a dog is neither fair nor safe. As a responsible parent, you need to delegate pet care chores that kids can perform safely and effectively.
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Get the Basics Right Before Bringing Home a Pet

Taking care of a dog is a significant responsibility and it’s too difficult for a young kid to manage single-handedly. You also need to realize is that most children are excited about bringing a dog home and not the associated chores.  If you are contemplating bringing home a puppy you need to honestly evaluate your child’s capabilities. Don’t just give in to your child’s incessant demands or in some cases public tantrums.

The best way forward is to take your child to a local animal shelter, allowing them to volunteer for small tasks. If you think your child is ready to take on the responsibilities you can consider adopting a dog. Thanks to frequent abandonment a lot of dogs end up in the shelters. Due to limited space, many shelter dogs get euthanized. That’s why it’s important to start off on the right foot by adopting dogs from local shelters instead of buying them from puppy mills or pet stores.

Assigning Responsibilities Based on Your Child’s Age

Babies and Toddlers: Children younger than 3 years old often fail to grasp the concept of a pet dog. Most babies and toddlers think of dogs as furry toys. This is the time when you need to supervise and make sure your child is not hurting the dog. Kids at this age have a habit of nibbling and tugging. Make sure your kid is not tugging on the dog’s ear or hugging it too tightly. Simple tasks such as handing out dog treats can be allowed, however, not without supervision.  

Ages 3 to 7: Post 3 years old, kids begin to understand that dogs are living and breathing animals and they can get hurt. This is when a child really connects with the dog and is thus a good time to introduce both to games like fetch and hide and seek. After your kid is about 5 years old you can start allowing your child to put out food and water for the dog under your watchful eyes.

Ages 7 to 10: At this point, your kid is fully aware of the basics of pet care, feeding, grooming, and walking. This is the time when you as a parent need to get them habituated to the daily chores of taking care of the pet. For example, when you take your dog for a walk ask your child to come along. Have your kid around during the daily grooming sessions and when administering medications. At about 10 years old, you can start to trust your kid to put out dog food and water. However, ask them to mark a calendar or a chore chart.

Ages 11 to 14: This is the time when your child is ready to do a lot of the pet care tasks unsupervised including grooming and setting out the food and water. Most kids are still not strong enough to take the dog out for walks alone.


Ages 15 and Above: When your kid reaches mid teenage he or she is ready to take on all the tasks. Apart from performing the basic chores such as walking and feeding the pet, older kids can handle bigger responsibilities such as finding pet meds online and administering them.