Can Dogs Teach Kids to be Responsible?

June 10, 2014 3:08 pm

Can Dogs Teach Kids to be Responsible?

“Growing up, my favorite part about taking care of Jack was giving him a bath,” remembers 16-year-old Alex.

That was no easy task. Jack is a huge black lab who’s never outgrown his rambunctiousness.  He still thinks he’s a lap dog.

Just as Alex loves Jack, it’s easy to understand why most children love their pet dogs.  They are great playmates that provide companionship and unconditional love. But can they also teach children responsibility?

Experts pretty much agree that they can, as long as the dog has no aggression issues, the pet knows the child, and the parent provides the correct guidance.

Little ones can be good helpers. They can pet their dog every day. They can be on the watch and report when the water bowl needs to be refilled. They can help brush the dog with assistance. They can assist in getting the dinner bowl ready and help dry it after it’s been washed. They can give the dog a treat by dropping it on the floor and waiting for him/her to pick it up.

As children grow, parents can help them learn to give their dog a treat with an open palm.

Older children can exercise the doggie, playing fetch, rolling around, and walking the dog. Of course, children need to know how to use the leash and their dog needs to listen to their commands. Walking the dog first with a parent works best. (The kids also have to know about “poop bags” and be sure to use them.)

As children grow, so can their responsibilities – such as feeding the dog, washing the dog’s dish, helping to bathe the dog and practicing commands that the dog knows. However, the parent should always be sure that there is enough time set aside for the child to not only perform the task but then to play with the dog once the chore is performed.

Taking care of a dog … or any animal … teaches children what it is like to have a living creature depend on them, and that builds self-esteem, confidence, and responsibility.