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Summer is typically a time when the family is around the house a lot more than they are the rest of the year. Both adults as well as children in the family are off work and school for summer holidays, providing lots of time for interactions with the dog. This increased down time for kids can be a great way to add exercise, socialization and lots of quality time for your pet. There are also a lot of benefits that children can obtain from spending time with their dog, but how much responsibility they can reasonably take on has a lot to do with the age and comfort level of the child.
Exercise ResponsibilitiesKids have an abundance of energy that can very nicely be channeled into activities with the dog. Of course the type of exercise and where it can occur depends a great deal on how obedient the dog is and how comfortable the child is in taking the dog out of the yard or off your property. Generally smaller breeds are relatively easily controlled by responsible children, however some of the very large and giant breeds can be more problematic if they are not fully leash trained and highly social dogs. It is important for the adult or parent to spend time with the child in managing the dog on the leash. Obedience classes for kids and their dogs are also a great way to develop the teamwork and leadership skills that children will need in managing the pet.
While exercising with a long walk or a trip to the dog park are certainly great ideas, kids can provide exercise right in the home or yard for the dog. Dogs that love to fetch will enjoy having kids just throw a ball, toy or stick while dogs that love games such as hide and seek, chase and just romping with the kids will enjoy the interaction. It is very important to help the children to understand that dog's should not be exercised in the heat of the day and explain the signs or signals that the dog may be overexerting his or herself in hot weather. This is particularly important if the dog is older, is a bit overweight to obese or has a history of respiratory problems. In addition the short muzzled breeds such as Boxers and Pugs often have a low tolerance for exercising in the sun, resulting in heat stroke and respiratory problems.
Older kids that are already very health conscious and enjoy jogging may find that taking their dog along with them is a great way to add to their fitness routine. Dogs that are well behaved and leash trained are the best match, however older children that are confident and experienced in working with dogs may also be directly involved in training the dog while out on their jogging circuit.
Feeding And WateringBusy families may decide to add a few more chores to their children's daily activities over the summer months. For lots of kids this means taking on the responsibility of feeding and watering the dog or dogs. In the hot summer months it is vitally important to the health of the dog to have a constant supply of fresh, clean water. Parents really need to discuss with their child the importance of clean, fresh water and how the dog is virtually dependent on the humans in the house to provide water.
Dogs, at least once they reach maturity, are typically fed one or two times a day. If children are feeding dogs they need to be taught how to handle the food, especially if you are feeding a raw or BARF diet. Hygiene and washing after handling any raw meat is important for your child. Parents also need to make sure that the dog behaves appropriately with the child during feeding. Some dogs may be food aggressive or possessive, which may not be a good match for a younger child or a child unfamiliar with how to interact with the dog. In some homes dogs are fed free choice, which means that children just have to ensure that the food bowl is topped up with kibble every morning or evening.
Parents should always have some form of checklist or reminder for children to ensure that the dog doesn't go without food or water due to the child being preoccupied or involved in their own activities. Rewarding the child for a job well done and following through on the responsibility will also be important.
GroomingFor most breeds, shedding is always a bit more pronounced in the warm summer months. Older children that enjoy grooming and bathing the dog can help out by grooming the pet every day or every other day, plus helping out in bathing the dog. As always it is important to teach the child how to correctly groom the dog. Many kids don't realize that grooming has to be done in the direction of hair growth and that they shouldn't use the brush around the dog's face.
The child should not be responsible for more detailed grooming requirements such as clipping, trimming or removing mats from the coat. In addition kids should not pluck the hairs from the dog's ears, trim the hair around the eyes or cut the dog's nails. Children can certainly help the adults or even actually do the grooming activity with direct adult supervision, but leaving to a child to control the dog and perform the task is only asking for an accident to occur.
Parents really need to know and understand how comfortable their child or children are with the dog before assigning additional summer chores. Even if the child just enjoys playing and petting the dog, this is a real benefit for both. By not forcing too much responsibility on the child it is more likely that they will eventually take on more dog related chores once they mature. Forcing a child to take on too much responsibility or commit too much time to the dog is going to result in resentment of the dog by the child. Finding the right balance is tricky, but talking to your child and watching them interact with the dog can certainly provide you with the necessary information.
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