Getting Kids Involved in Bringing Up Doggie

P071108.jpg

As we begin another New Year, I figure it is a good way to begin my new venture here on Dog Star Daily talking about new beginnings. Many folks are resolving to take better care of themselves, and some are settling in with a newly acquired puppy or dog. By now, if you gotten that Christmas puppy for the kids, you’re probably realizing that much of the responsibility for this new family member is falling to you, the parent.

Well, it is not too late to make a good start for the pup and for the kids. I would like to take this opportunity to remind parents that kids can learn responsibility and they can enjoy their doggy-chores too! It is all in the presentation.

The most important job for a child to do with a new dog is to bond with him. I recommend that my clients bring their kids to obedience classes, and I try to allow them to participate as much as they can for their level of maturity. I make training exercises into games, like follow-the-leader and hide-and-seek, especially for younger children. These games make training fun for the kids and make polite walking and coming when called fun for the dog. When they have fun together, the “duties” of having a dog are more enjoyable too. Even my three-year-old enjoys feeding the dogs and filling their water bowl. Older children are often charged with cleaning up the messes, so make a game of that too. If puppy goes outside, and Tommy takes him out and picks up the mess, they both get a treat when they come in. If you highlight the fun and companionship, the chores will get done with a lot less argument.

Now…for some tips on building a solid foundation with your new dog, and don’t forget to make them fun!

• Your dog has been learning from day one…you are always teaching her something. The most common question I am asked about puppies is “when can we start training her?” The answer is always that you already are…so make sure you’re teaching her what you want her to learn!

• Socialize, socialize, socialize. Expose your dog to everyone and everything you can. Take him out of the house at least three times per week, preferably more. Use the vacuum cleaner and blender, turn on ceiling fans, etc. and pair all of these experiences with yummy treats. Bring some string cheese with you when you take him out and feed him when he meets new people or when he sees other animals. This creates a positive association with new things. The lesson is not “sit” yet, it is simply that new people and noises and things have the potential to bring treats and are therefore not frightening.

• Encourage and reward any behavior you would like to see in the future. This includes when the dog sits, lies down or comes to you all by himself.

• Prevent or ignore behaviors which you do not wish to continue. This means keeping food, trash and valuable items out of puppy’s reach, as well as NOT chasing him when he steals your slipper.

• Do not punish your puppy for making a mistake. Right now you’re building a relationship and you should be associated with fun. You want to teach her what you want her to DO instead of making that mistake. So, if she wets on the carpet, Oops! Take her outside more often and reward her when she gets it right. When she chews up your shoe, Oops! Teach her to chew on her toys instead. Teach her to sit when meeting new people before she has a chance to jump on them.

• Find a class near you which encourages family participation and uses motivational tools (like treats) to foster learning and enhance your relationship with your dog.