Most children have a natural affinity for pets of any kind. Cats are great for petting and just spending time with; rabbits, gerbils, fish, hamsters and birds are fun to watch but a dog is a great all round companion. Dogs that are raised with kids and kids that are raised with dogs seem to have a natural communication method that is often uncanny in their ability to effortlessly interact with each other. Since this is such a great combination, finding fun activities for your child or children and the family dog or dogs to do together is a great way to foster this connection.
There are several basic activities that parents can encourage their child or children to get involved in that include the family dog. Of course the very best activity is the routine walk, ideally both morning and evening, however there is nothing wrong with throwing in some additional walks in between. Walks for both dogs and kids can be fun, especially if you have a dog-friendly park nearby where both the kids and dogs can explore. This is a great whole family activity plus it doubles as much needed exercise for everyone involved. More and more kids spend more and more time sitting passively involved on the computer, video games and even watching the television so a good outing in a fun place is a great diversion. Dogs really can help children develop lifelong healthy exercise habits while making it fun and entertaining. As the parent you can help by tracking down various parks in your vicinity that are dog friendly or that allow dogs off leash, depending on your kids and your dog.
Kids that are involved in sports often have to jog or to complete specific running requirements as part of their training. Having a dog that jogs along with the kids is a good and healthy way to make the run a lot more entertaining. If you child is jogging with a dog make sure that the dog is in good physical shape or has time to gradually build up to the level of exercised that the child is needing to complete. If the dog needs time to build up to that level, perhaps the parents or the child could work as a personal trainer for the dog. This is good way for your child to take responsibility for the dog's overall health in a very simple way. Parents will need to monitor the exercise plan for the dog as well as provide oversight to the program.
Dog and Kid Play Days
If your child or children have friends that also have dogs and the dogs interact together well and are socialized together, planning events that the kids and dogs can all do together is a good summer or any season activity. You may want to organize a game of dog Frisbee or perhaps even a set of games for the children and dogs to do, either as a competitive model or just for fun.
If you are considering planning an organized activity, why not consider a modified obstacle or agility course that is very safe for all the dogs as well as the kids. You may be surprised at what you have just sitting around the house that will make a fun and interesting obstacle course. Use round dowel pieces pushed into the ground about 2 feet apart as a pole course where the dogs and kids have to weave in and out, an old set of tires can make a unique obstacle to crawl through or jump through, and a few logs, boxes or even bricks and boards can make very low jumps for the kids and the dogs to go over. Just be careful to keep everything very safe and non-threatening for both the children and the pets.
Host Your Own Neighborhood Dog Show
If you don't want to have an agility or obstacle type event, you may want to simply host a dog show. Kids can groom, bath and make their pets look special and then compete either with guest judges from the neighborhood or just for the fun of bringing their dog. You can set up prizes for best groomed, best trick, best showmanship or whatever you choose. A really creative event may be best costume where children and dogs can dress up together and see which pair has the most unique or interesting costume.
If you encourage parents to also come and watch it can be a great neighborhood get together. All you will need is something to designate the show ring area, stakes and a fancy ribbon or streamer can be used, along with ribbons for all participants and perhaps a few prizes. Call the local paper and have them send over a reporter or a photographer so the kids can see themselves in the paper for a real added bonus.
Camping and Vacationing
Taking your dog and kids on vacation together, whether staying in hotels, rentals or camping, is a great way to bring the two together. Just keep in mind that sometimes your children may want to do something that the dog's can't be involved in so parents may have to help with doggy supervision. If the children feel that they have some freedom from the constant responsibility for the dog they can enjoy both their pet as well as their vacation time.
Whenever you are planning a vacation or camping trip with your dog be sure to check whatever accommodations you are using to ensure that dogs are welcome. Some campgrounds are becoming much more strict about dogs with the camping area, however there are still many that welcome dogs provided they are leashed and under control. A portable dog pen or teaching your dog to be on a tether may be required before taking your dog on vacation with you. Kids will also need to understand the rules of the hotel, motel, campground or park so that they can monitor and be responsible for the pet following all the expectations.