Almost every parent has been nagged by a kid about having a dog. Tom Dawson, a volunteer, who writes publicity for the Somerset County (NJ) Humane Society, has come up with some ideas that deserve to be passed on to the training community.
First, he acknowledges that most parents know that they are the ones who may end up taking care of the dog no matter how many pledges the wantful children make. Either that or they say “Okay” to having a dog without thinking it through.
How should a family lay the groundwork for having a dog? Above all Mr. Dawson advises, “Don’t decide immediately!” Next he says parents should hang tough and explain to the children that “a dog is a living creature subject to hunger, thirst, heat, cold, disease and emotional as well as physical pain, and it will be the child’s responsibility to see to its welfare.” (Yes, yes, we’ve heard all that before!)
Mr. Dawson says it is imperative that the child understands that you are making a very, very important decision, one of life or death for an innocent puppy. This dog will outlive your automobile and we all know how much we look into the buying of a new car. The parent should adopt a “show me” attitude and their child earn the title of Responsible Pet Owner before any decisions are made. After all mom and dad had to take driver’s tests, didn’t they?
A. Have the child study at least one book or pamphlet on the subject of training and caring for a dog, and give oral reports on its contents, explaining why each item is important. Books, pamphlets and other written information can come from your vet, local dog club or school and dog food manufacturers.
B. Have the child talk to a vet, dog owner and/or breeder about personality traits and temperaments. Perhaps, go to a dog show and view these breeds. This helps the whole family make a more intelligent decision as to what type of dog would be most suitable.
C. Buy a pooper scooper (or some sealable plastic bags) and, after showing the child how to use it properly and where to dispose of it, have him or her clean up the neighborhood after irresponsible pet owners. Says Mr. Dawson, “Any kid who gets squeamish at this stage can not be an RPO yet, and should consider a goldfish.” Kids (and parents) who can handle poop pickup without flinching gain a degree of respect from the neighbors and also learn to hold irresponsible dog owners in contempt as such owners give all owners, even RPOs, a bad name.
D. Arrange for the child to walk, brush, feed and otherwise care for a friend or neighbor’s dog on a strict schedule for a month. (Oh, I love this man!) If the child forgets to walk the dog, the child must mop the floor whether the dog had an accident or not. If the child forgets to feed the dog, the child misses dinner also. Valuable lesson -responsibility and punctuality. Mr. Dawson warns, however, parents should be careful lest the child begins to resent the dog. He suggests the child be reminded how the dog has suffered as a result of the negligence and make it clear that the dog will forgive him instantly, but YOU won’t.
When the child has successfully met these RPO requirements and any others you’d like to add, to the parents satisfaction -praise, congratulations and a dog of their own is well deserved.
Tom suggests that parents choose a period of time for Rover’s arrival (two weeks minimum) when the entire family is free of major commitments, as any dog, especially a puppy will need a good deal of attention at first.
He also strongly recommends that if the children are under six years of age that an adult dog be adopted. Puppyhood passes incredibly quickly and a young adult dog from a reputable shelter ¬perhaps already housetrained can be a Godsend. Housetraining requires “alert” time. It can take weeks. Then teething begins… Besides, shelter dogs desperately need RPOs!
©1990 Peggy Prudden