|Yankee and his boy... 2011 litter|
Sometimes I can hear the hesitation in a parent's voice, and I have to tell parent...
"It is your call. Don't feel pressured into getting a puppy. If you don't want a dog, you shouldn't get one. Because ultimately it will be YOU who will have to be responsible for a lifetime of dog care. But if you feel you are ready to make the sacrifice to care for a dog for your spouse or your kids, then that is OK too. But do it because YOU are committed to do it and do it WELL.
Many parents wait to get a puppy when they think their child is old enough 'to be responsible for a puppy.' This is commonly parents whose kids range in age from 7-14 yrs of age. But expecting children to be 'responsible' for a puppy, is simply not realistic for the average child. Very few children have the maturity to train a puppy. This can be a challenge even for adults. The parent has to oversee the child's duties, and the puppy schedule to be sure the child remembers to give the puppy what he needs when he needs it. The parent also has to teach the child how to teach the puppy good habits. Training a puppy well is so important that an adult must be involved. Even the most responsible kids need to be taught, and need to be supervised with puppy training.
But children of this age group do make great helpers. Parents should take the time to get there kids involved with the puppy. Here is a list of ways that kids can help with a puppy....
|All the family take turns with potty training.|
- play with the puppy
- teach the puppy commands
- walk the puppy
- help take the puppy to the potty
- help clean the puppy toilet
Most children start out with great enthusiasm for these tasks. After a few weeks, it is most common for the routine to start to lose its charm. More often than not, the parent has to step up and take on the duties. At this point it is up to the parent to decide whether good parenting demands the child's continued involvement, and if so, how they will encourage that involvement to continue.
In my family, different children help in different ways. The kids at age 10 and above share all the puppy duties. They take turns....and I take turns too! There is a lot to do, and I don't want it to be wearisome for anyone. So sharing the duties makes it easy for everyone. But with many kids involved there is the danger of diffusion of responsibility. So I never rely on my kids memory when it comes to the puppy schedule. I call on them for their help when the time is needed. I feel that it is ultimately my responsibility to rear this puppy. So I am there to witness that puppy duties are performed correctly and at the appropriate time.
Puppies and Babies
|Babies love puppies..but always supervise!|
For example, I brought home our Toby when he was 8 weeks old. I also had a 3 month old nursing baby. (I wouldn't try it with a newborn!) I remember it was a bit of a challenge to care for a young baby and to potty train a puppy. But I was happy to do it, because I wanted my kids to grow up with a dog.
I remember Toby was so small and pathetic. He would snuggle up next to me, every time I sat down to hold my baby.
As the baby grew to the toddler stage she did not like this arrangement anymore. She would say, "My Mama!" and push Toby off my lap. I remember Toby growling as he was not wanting to relinquish his favorite spot! But I growled right back, even louder. It was important for Toby to understand that he was not on equal ground as the toddler. He was in a lower place than the toddler in the hierarchy of our family. He had to know that baby came first. If I had not made this clear to Toby, it might have become a dangerous situation....doggy trying to dominate baby. I always supervised the baby/puppy interaction so our doggy would never be hurt by an rough toddler. Toby grew up to be well adjusted. Now he loves children...especially babies!
Children with Special Needs and Dogs
|Yankee at 6 weeks with his girl.|
Sometimes a child who has special needs can be greatly helped by having a dog to love. Autistic children who have difficulties with social cues are often calmed by the presence of a dog in their life. Children with special needs can have a variety of challenges, and a parent needs to evaluate their child to find out whether a new pet will be helpful and manageable. Sometimes it is better for children with Special needs to get an older dog instead of a puppy.
This was my situation for us several years ago. I had an ornery little boy who suffered from acute Gastrointestinal Reflux and tended to be crying and screaming constantly. My daughter was begging me for a white Schnauzer. There was NO way a puppy would have been a good thing for me at that time. My little boy was such a handful! But my daughter was praying for a dog, and children's prayers are powerful.
|Each child is precious!|
But there was still much vigilance on my part. Dixie had not been socialized with children, and my little boy was impulsive and rambunctious! This is not the best situation for an adoption...even for the sweetest dog in the world! I was already in the habit of closely monitoring my son. I had to be sure he would not hurt our dogs, or provoke them to bite. I remember he had a habit of kicking his foot out at the dogs as the dogs walked by! That just freaked Dixie out!
|Growing up with puppies is a wonderful life!|
In time my patience did pay off. Within the year, he got better and better. Before long he had grown into as sweet as a child could be. Friends will tell me today that they can't believe he is the same little boy. And you know, I believe our pets were a good thing for him. He loves the dogs sooo much! Every year he spends the most time playing with our litter of puppies and he is so gentle with them. He is the best source of social interaction they could have!
Dogs with Preschool Aged Kids
Now here we are once more! A new puppy in the house...and I have another preschooler! But this time the dynamic is totally different. My 31/2 year old is a very independent and easy child. (the easiest child I have ever had!) There was no doubt in my mind that he would adjust very smoothly to the new puppy.
Nonetheless, I still had watch my child like a hawk! Those first few weeks were especially crucial. I wanted set both child and puppy up for a positive experience from the beginning. It would have been awful if either of them became frightened of the other. They are both learning how to play safetly together.
|At 11 wks old Coco was still a bit feisty at times.|
During the first few weeks, my preschooler wanted to roll and rough house with the puppy. That really made Coco rambunctious. It would trigger her acting rough and biting him. So I showed him how to use toys to play with her. If Coco started to bite I encouraged him to give the puppy a toy instead. I also kept play sessions to shorter time increments. And kept Coco in her pen at other times.
It is very importance that a parent discourage a puppy from biting the children in play time. As the puppy gets to be 3-4 months of age such biting could be a lead to dominance problems.
Several weeks later, I still supervise the puppy play time, but I am much more relaxed about it. Occasionally, my preschooler is naughty and lets the puppy out of the pen, when I am not looking. Soon I have a fluffy Coco bounding up behind me in the kitchen! I will look at my child and say, "Did you let Coco out of her pen?" And he will look at me with a naughty little grin and big eyes, and say his sister did it! He knows he isn't fooling anyone!
|A child can be taught to give a puppy a toy when he starts to play bite.|
A much better game is to teach your children is to play fetch with a puppy. The game of fetch gives the puppy an activity that expends extra energy and teaches a puppy that it is fun to work with people. It also puts the child in a leadership position with the puppy. It is important to foster proper leadership between a child and a puppy, because a puppy is more likely to want to dominate a little child, then anyone else.
|A child learns confidence when he is taught to play appropriately with a puppy.|
After I had trained our puppy in a few basic commands, I was able to show our preschooler how to train puppy too. He can command Coco to COME, and to SIT just like everyone else! It is so exciting for him that Coco will actually listen to him! He also has fun giving Coco her treats when she obeys. For a young child, teaching obedience to a puppy is a wonderful game!
|2011 Schnoodle puppies already learning from the kids!|
|2011 Schnoodle with her girl.|