There are many benefits to teaching children how to care for dogs. They learn compassion, responsibility, kindness, and patience as well as developing a stronger bond.
How and what you teach your child (or children) needs to be age-appropriate as their capacity to understand and translate information will vary greatly depending on age. Here are some age-appropriate activities you can teach your children at different stages of their life:
Children between the ages of 0-3 are not capable of caring for a pet and should not be left unattended with a dog. Since children model their behaviour on what they see, you should be teaching them positive behaviours and ensuring they understand that a dog is a living animal that will react to its environment.
It's important to teach them that you should never pull a dog's tail, pick them up, or disturb them while they are eating or sleeping. The best way for them to learn is to watch you care for your pet, and help you with tasks such as preparing the dog food or telling you when the water bowl is empty.
Children this age are still too young to feed or walk the dog, but they can certainly take a more hands-on approach to 'assisting' with duties. Try allowing them to hold the leash while you walk the dog, and drop treats on the floor for your pooch to devour. By this age, they will understand how to pet a dog gently.
By this stage, children can take a more hands-on approach to caring for your pooch. They can do things like play fetch, enjoy brushing your pooches coat and offer treats on the palm of their hand (under supervision).
This is where they become quite independent and can confidently groom, feed, and play with your pet without assistance. There's also no reason why you can't teach your child to clean the yard by picking up and disposing of dog poop. While it may not be their favourite activity, this will teach them responsibility and that not everything is 'fun'. If you have tasked your child with cleaning up doggy doo-doo, they must understand the basic hygiene practices that they should follow.
It’s important to note that this is a general guide, you are the best judge of your child’s level of maturity and skillset, as well as your dogs’ size and temperament.