Have you ever heard the phrase “the dog ate my homework”? Well, your dog may in fact be helping your child with his or her homework.
The company Pets At Home conducted a survey of 1,000 children between the ages of 5 and 16 that revealed 79 percent of those students believed that owning a pet had a positive effect on their sense of responsibility and improved their social skills.(1) When you take a look at your child’s report card, you’ll see that responsibility is an essential skill for success. What’s even more surprising is that researchers in the U.S. found that reading to dogs helped children improve their reading fluency by over 30 percent!(2) That’s a lot! Children feel safe reading around dogs. They feel like they are not being judged or corrected, and they can be more animated, which can help them build more confidence.
With these benefits in mind, let’s look at responsible pet ownership and how you can get children more involved...
Prior to getting a dog, your children can help you research what supplies you will need, and they can make a list and help with the shopping. Here are some tasks you can assign to children, depending on their age:
Parents must also know that sometimes the novelty of a new pet will wear off for a child. In that case, the responsibility really is theirs. It’s important to praise children for any active role that they take in caring for their dog; tell them how much you appreciate their help.
Parents should, however, avoid making their children feel guilty for not helping look after the family pet, as that will just build up resentment. Parents definitely shouldn’t tell their children that if they don’t do a particular task then they will get rid of the dog because that just teaches children that dogs are disposable, which they aren’t.
Marlo Hiltz, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP.