Looking for a Family Pet? Kids are probably benefited more than dogs by the kid/pet relationship.
The kid has a friend. The kid has a companion. The kid has a protector. A pet dog offers all these services and is often rewarded scantily, if at all.
When considering a dog to be a best friend for a child, consider carefully. You must choose a suitable dog for that child. A two year old little boy doesn't need the Italian Greyhound puppy his mother craves, nor does he need the Chesapeake Bay Retriever that his dad covets. He probably will do best with a Beagle, Bassett, Australian Shepherd or Collie.
A seven year old girl wants a friend to play house, a companion and protector when she roams the wilds of the park, a sympathetic ear as she goes into the unknown territory of school and social graces. A Sheltie "best friend" comes to mind.
A boy of the same age wants a dog to confide in and probably an
athletic buddy to help fly kites without crushing the boy's self esteem by
laughing when it crashes. A good natured Labrador or Retrieve might even
go fetch the darned thing.
The care of a dog isn't complicated, but don't depend on your child to always feed, water, clean and groom the dog. The youngster needs supervision and most of all, encouragement for a job well done.
If the care of the dog is to be the child's responsibility, make sure you detail carefully, preferably in writing with a spot for daily checks. A simple chart with spaces for each chore- Feed, Clean, Change Water, Pick up & Dispose of droppings, Brush. Blanks for daily checks marks serve a dual purpose: you can see that each item has been done and the child benefits by the feeling of accomplishment and the habit of successfully completing his task.
The child and the pet should be encouraged to be best friends. Some of the happiest homes with the best kids have a one pet per child situation. The children are very careful that no fault can be found with the care of "their dog." After about the age 8 or 9, the child can train his/her dog. Find a sympathetic and tuned in instructor. The process of teaching things to his/her dog helps the child to be a better student. It also helps tremendously with communication skills. Except in very rare cases, an 8 year old can't control the big sporting or working breeds, so of course, let safety be your guide.
Through the training process the child learns many things. Physical control, using the correct pace and leash corrections. Responsibility. If the dog hasn't learned his lesson the cause is you as teacher. If you don't work him, he won't learn. Reward - the satisfaction of having a well behaved friend. Possibly competition in obedience or junior showmanship. Most of all, being able to take your pal almost everywhere with you.
For you parents who are reading this, unless you have experienced having a dog as a best friend, first hand, there are few things as comforting to a child as having a furry friend to watch TV with, be there when you wake up in the night, go on walks with, share all your secrets and wishes with. This is a pal that can share your childhood and be your best buddy until you reach adulthood.
A good dog is not only man's best friend and woman's best friend, maybe most of all your child's best friend. In these days of divorce, family moves, working moms, the love of a great dog can provide the stability and security every child deserves.
I urge you to not only think of a family dog, but of Jane's dog and Jimmy's dog. A multi dog household holds some challenges, but the rewards for your kids are tremendous.
Valley Pet News Sacramento CA 1991 reprinted with permission