Tuesday, April 26, 2011

National Kids and Pets Day

Do you have kids?  Do you have a dog?  “We got the dog for our son, but since I’m the only one taking care of the dog now it’s like I have one more kid to clean up after.”  Does this sound familiar?  You got the dog for the kids but you are the only one who ends up taking care of the dog.  It doesn’t have to be like this and what better day to make a change then on National Kids and pets day?
Having your kids help raise the dog is a great way for them to learn about responsible dog ownership, safe interaction with dogs, and responsibility for caring for another living creature.  These skills will be invaluable to your children as they get older because it will help them succeed in future relationships not only with animals but with humans as well.  Children learn a lot by example so it is up to you to start their dog education at home.   After all, raising the family dog should be a family activity.
5 things to do with the kids and the dog
1.       Go for a walk- Exercise is the best way to show your dog a little extra love, because they absolutely love and need daily exercise.  A daily walk is not only great for their physical and mental health but yours as well.  By setting aside time in your day to walk the dog you get a little one-on-one time with your child (alternate days with multiple children so they each get personal time with you) to talk about your day and unwind.  This forms great bonds and habits of walking the dog regularly and getting outside regularly.  This is also a great time to teach your children how to walk the dog and correct any bad behavior the dog may have while walking around the neighborhood.
2.       Play hide and Seek- This game can work inside or outside, but there are fewer distractions inside.  Give your child a few dog treats and have them go “hide” (start with standing in plain sight) in another room while the dog waits with you.  Have your child call the dog with a “Come” command and let your dog find him or her.  (If you have more than one child have each child stand in a different room and take turns calling the dog with the “come” command.)  Instruct your child to give the dog one treat each time they are found.  After the dog has found your child in one location wait with your dog while your child moves to another location and repeat the activity, hiding in a new location each time.  Once the dog gets better at this game your child can start actually hiding (i.e. behind doors or under beds).  This is a great way to train the dog to come when called and have fun with your family at the same time.  
3.       Take the dog to the park- Everyone needs a break from day to day life; kids, adults, and dogs alike.  The park is a great place for everyone to get fresh air and enjoy the day.  If you live near a neighborhood park take the extra time to walk with your kids and dog there.  An alternative to the neighborhood park is going to the dog park.  Going to the dog park with your children is a great way for your kids to watch the dogs interact, read their body language, learn how to interact with new dogs, and become comfortable around dogs.  Check out Carlson Dog Park in Riverside for a little different day at the dog park by trying out the agility course.  For more info and park reviews visit doggoes.com  
4.       Play fetch- Another great way to work on training while having fun with the family.  Having your children use basic commands such as “Fetch” and “Drop it” is another way to teach your dog to listen to your children when they give commands, teach the dog how to play with children (i.e. no nipping or jumping on them), and continually brush up on their good doggy manners while giving them the daily exercise they need.
5.       Feed the dog together- Knowing what your dog eats and what he needs to be eating is an important part of responsible dog ownership that is most often disregarded.  Try spending family night learning about a dog’s diet, proper food portions for your dog’s size, and how to read dog food labels.  Just like humans, a dog’s diet affects not only their basic health, but more specifically their skin, coat, nails, eyes, weight, joints, energy level, and digestion.  A poor diet will lead to poor health and possibly further behavioral issues like depression and aggression.  Once you have your dog diet education try spending a family night cooking a meal for the dog or baking some dog treats.  For great recipes, check out http://www.easydogrecipes.com/ or simply Google Dog food recipes for even more ideas.  Don’t forget, good manners can go a long way so have your dog sit and wait before giving them any food. 

For more advice on raising children and dogs together check out these resources

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