As the long summer holidays approach, you might be hoping that your older children can begin to help out when it comes to caring for and walking your dog while they’re off school, and this is absolutely fine if you go about things in the right way.
Also, when it comes to younger children in particular but children of all ages, there are also a few things you need to think about when it comes to your dog, safety, and management of the dog in the school holidays too.
This article will cover all of these points, and tell you what you need to consider when it comes to your kids, your dog, and the impact of the school holidays. Read on to learn more.
When your children start getting a little older, you might want to begin involving them in caring for your dog. This can be a good way for them to both learn responsibility and earn some spending money!
However, you cannot just hand your dog’s care (or individual aspects of this) over to your children, even older ones, and hope for the best. As the adult and legal owner of the dog, you might delegate some things to your children, but you still need to oversee them and ensure that they are done correctly.
Walking the dog, feeding the dog, and even just returning home at the agreed time to let the dog out to do their business are all the types of things that kids in their mid-teens onwards may be able to help with. But you should always monitor that this is done properly; that the dog is given a real walk, for instance, and not just taken out with your teenager when they go to hang around with friends in the park.
Dogs are opportunistic and having the children at home in the holidays can potentially open up a world of opportunity for them when it comes to food. Kids and snacks might mean chances to beg or steal, there might be more food to scavenge on walks as some children drop it on the ground, and food left out by an absent-minded child can soon make it into the dog.
Ensure that your children don’t start feeding the dog scraps, and that if they’re supervising or walking them, that they’re vigilant about preventing your dog from eating things they find lying around.
An external door left open for a few minutes can provide a chance for your dog to wander off and get lost, as can a garden gate improperly latched.
Make sure your children get into the habit of closing gates and doors properly, and if they have friends coming and going, that they’re instructed to do the same, and that someone checks too.
Another thing to be careful of is that your dog isn’t closed out of the room where their food and water is, which can happen if you have visitors or perhaps if the dog is just being a pain and your children want to put some space between themselves and the dog while they eat or play.
You might think that having your children at home will mean lots of opportunities for your dog to get out more and get some exercise by going out with your children to play or meet friends; and also if your children and dog get on well, they might be keen to take the dog to see friends or go and play.
However, make sure that this is rewarding for the dog, does not take the place of proper walks, and doesn’t turn into a scenario in which a bored and thirsty dog is being trailed around after your children, with said children only really thinking about the dog and their needs as an afterthought.
It might seem ideal to get your children to walk the dog, but this isn’t a decision to make lightly. Ensuring that your children are old enough, responsible enough, and experienced enough to keep the dog and other dogs, people, and pets safe and the dog under control is vital to this.
You need to consider if the child in question is both physically old and strong enough to manage the dog on the lead, mature enough to make informed decisions when on the walk and confident enough to communicate with adult dog owners they may meet, and experienced enough with the dog to know when to take them home, and what sort of situations might be a problem.
If your kids are being a pain, have been up to no good, or you otherwise want them to make amends for something, do not involve your dog in this. Walking the dog should never be used as a punishment for your child, for multiple reasons.
First of all making your children resent the dog, even peripherally, is a very bad idea. They’re also likely to begrudge the walk and so by association, not enjoy walking the dog in general. They’re also apt to not do it properly if they are reluctant.
Finally, if your child is angry or feels unfairly dealt with, they might channel their annoyance towards the dog, even unwittingly, by being heavy handed with the lead or short-tempered with the dog’s normal behaviour.
As the dog’s owner and the children’s parent – even if your kids are starting to look frighteningly grown up and are even taller than you are – you’re the responsible adult, and responsible for both children and dog.
It is absolutely fair to expect a certain level of assistance and cooperation from your children with the dog during the summer if they want things from you (like pocket money or lifts to visit friends) but this must be in-keeping with the age and maturity of the child, and their interest in the dog.