Children's Roles In Pet Care

First, it's great that you want to share the responsibility of pet ownership with your children. However, it's important that you assign age-appropriate tasks. Here are a few examples of what you may expect:


A toddler can help parents with pet care simply by being involved — "helping" a parent fill food and water dishes, grooming, going with parents to take the dog for a walk or to the veterinarian. Another good trick is to have the toddler give the dog a treat for good behavior, i.e. gets in bed or crate before family leaves the house. The toddler and the pet both enjoy this special job!

The 5-7 Year Old

This age group is capable of doing some of the tasks above (feeding, watering, grooming) without parental help. Still you can't expect that a child this age will remember to do these jobs without friendly reminders from Mom or Dad.

The 8-12 Year Old

Parents still need to supervise children in this age group for some tasks, like walking the dog. Before a child is 10-12 years of age it's not advised that they walk a dog without adult supervision. But the child can feed, water and play with the dog alone (depending on the dog's temperament and area for exercising).


Depending on your teen's maturity, you can sometimes allow him/her to take full responsibility for the dog, including feeding, cleaning up after, driving to the veterinarian and exercising the pet. Allowing the teen to take the dog to obedience classes can also be a good activity for both.

Welcoming Your Newcomer

Helping your new friend adapt to his new home will be easier if you plan ahead. If you have all the puppy's basic needs in place you can focus on introducing him to his new surroundings and begin his training.

Do your shopping in advance. If your choice is a puppy, you'll need a collar and leash, a crate (a great aid in housebreaking),  toys that will be safe for the puppy, a bed for the puppy, as well as non-tippable, easy-to-clean food and water bowls.

If the puppy is to be housed outdoors, choose a well-insulated doghouse large enough to accommodate the puppy at its full-grown size. It should be located on a high, well-drained site protected from the wind. Choose a location that provides outdoor shade during the summer.

You'll want the proper diet on hand to meet the special nutritional needs of your rapidly growing newcomer. Purina® brand Puppy Foods are formulated to provide the extra protein, calcium, phosphorus and other nutrients puppies require. Please remember: puppies have unique nutritional needs and benefit from a food formulated for those needs.

Select a veterinarian for your new puppy as soon as possible. Ask dog-owning friends and neighbors for recommendations. Choosing a veterinarian who is located nearby is a convenience and saves time if an emergency should occur. We use Dr John Tarleton out of Georgetown. We are happy to provide his number. He has always been a very good vet for us and he comes highly recommended.

The best time to bring your newcomer home is at the beginning of a weekend. If possible, add a few vacation days. This gives you time to acquaint your puppy with its new home and to begin housebreaking and other training.

Make arrangements with the person from whom you are getting the puppy as to the time you will pick him up.  Ask that the puppy not be fed prior to pick-up time. This helps avoid the puppy's becoming car sick on his way to its new home.

Once in his new home, remember that your puppy needs to adjust to strange new surroundings and people. Children can become especially excited. Explain to them that their new companion needs time out for naps. Show children how to pet the newcomer and the proper way to pick him up.

A puppy should be closely supervised and taken outside to relieve itself after eating, following naps and play periods.

Bring any immunization information you may have received when you adopted your puppy to your veterinarian to begin a case history for future reference. It's a good idea to keep your own medical record. You may need it for reference if your pet's veterinarian is not available.

Choose a name for your newcomer and use only that name in calling the puppy. In teaching a puppy its name, as in all training matters, 100 percent cooperation of all family members is essential. When a puppy is sent mixed signals, he can become confused and not respond to any of the contradictory signals.

Remember these key words and you'll enjoy your new friends for years to come: Gentleness. Care. Patience. Consistency. Praise. Love.

Why should I keep my puppy in a crate at night and while I'm away?

A popular way to train a puppy is to confine him to a crate when you can’t supervise him. This will not only keep him out of trouble and help housebreak him – it will make him feel safe. In the wild, dogs create their own sleeping quarters by digging a den. For domestic dogs, a crate can serve the same purpose. That’s why many dogs love their crates as adults, too. Just make sure not to keep the animal in there longer than overnight.

To make a dog feel secure, his crate should actually be quite small – small enough to feel like a den. But it should be tall enough that the dog can stand up and lie down with a straight spine. If your crate is too big for your puppy, fill the extra space with a box until he grows.