With the holiday season fast approaching, parents are undoubtedly going to find a dog on their child’s Christmas list. While these furry friends are great company, they are also a lot of responsibility. Children need to be instructed on how to properly care for their pet before they can have one in the household.

That said, many parents may not know how to approach this topic or how to teach their children the work that goes into owning a pet. If your child is asking for their own dog this Christmas, continue reading below to learn how to talk to your child about dog ownership!

Dogs are easy to love, but dog ownership comes with a lot of commitment as well!
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Start Out With the Basic Care That Comes With Dog Ownership

Breaking down the list of things that your child will have to take care of is simple, making it the perfect place to start!

What will you tell your child about a dog’s needs? You can open up the conversations by talking about responsibilities such as:

  • Feeding the dog and making sure that it has plenty of water
  • Taking it out when it needs to use the bathroom
  • Cleaning up after it, whether that be after it uses the bathroom or if it makes a mess
  • Giving it plenty of love and attention
  • Taking it on walks or playing with it to ensure that it gets its exercise
  • Sticking with these responsibilities for the course of the dog’s life

(Important Note: There is a major difference between getting a dog and getting a puppy. Dog ownership comes with some of the basic demands listed above. Puppies, on the other hand, require far more care at the beginning of their lives, and your child may not be ready or able to tend to their needs. If you do choose to adopt a puppy, please keep these needs in mind and be aware that you will need to handle the bulk of the care while it is young.)

Owning a dog is an exciting and fulfilling experience, but it comes with its fair share of responsibility. Many children look forward to the happiness that dog ownership will provide but are unaware of the level of care they require.

Although you should expect to share some of the responsibility with other members of the household, it is important that your child knows what is expected of them before a pet comes into the picture!

Dive Deeper Into How a Dog Should Be Treated (and What Is Not Allowed)

Young children may not know how to treat an animal, which can be a problem if they accidentally cause it harm. For example, your child may pull on a dog’s ears or tail out of curiosity, which can cause the dog to lash out and scare the child.

Helping your child understand which actions are okay and which are not when they are interacting with their pet is vital to both your child’s and your pet’s safety. Some great areas to cover in dog ownership safety include:

  • Petting the Dog Nicely– Some animals are great sports when it comes to dealing with children, but they still have their limits! Scratching and light stroking is okay, but you need to tell your child that they should never pinch, pull, or roughly handle a dog’s coat and skin.
  • Keeping Play Gentle– Rough play can hurt animals, regardless of their size. While it is okay for your child to run around and play with their dogs, they should never tackle them, sit on them, or put them in a situation where their dog can be injured. Safety first!
  • Being Respectful– Yelling at a dog, getting in its face, or otherwise treating it poorly is never acceptable behavior. A dog, like a human being, should always be treated with love and respect. This is important to teach your child if they are interested in dog ownership!

It is easier for your child to learn these things if they have been around dogs before. If you can, try to expose them to dogs before you bring one into your home. This way, your child will know how to treat a dog if you do choose to get one for them.

Ask Them, Why Do They Want a Dog?

Some children truly love dogs and want to care for their own (a true sign of those who are ready for dog ownership), while others may only want a dog because their friend has one or because they think it would be fun. When you consider bringing a pet into your home, it is important to understand why your child wants one in the first place.

Put simply, you don’t want to get your child a dog if they aren’t ready for the commitment that comes with dog ownership. That is not fair to the dog that you ultimately decide to take in, and it creates extra stress for the adults in the home who aren’t ready to care for a dog full-time.

Always evaluate the reasons behind your child’s request for an animal before you take one in!

Ultimately, Dog Ownership Boils Down to Preparedness

As a parent, you can tell whether or not your child is ready to have their own dog as well as whether or not you have the time and resources to meet the demands of a dog. It is ultimately up to you to determine if getting a pet is right for you at this point in time.

If it is the right time, this will be an exciting new chapter in your life! If this is not something that is possible for you now, this is the perfect time to help your child learn the skills necessary to take care of their own pet in the future.

While dog ownership is an exciting prospect for many children, making sure that they are prepared for a pet’s needs before you choose to make their dreams come true is something that must be done. If you are considering getting your own dog but want to make sure that your child can handle it, use the dog ownership conversation guide above to help you come to the right decision!