Are you thinking about getting your kids a dog? Don't let that cute doggy face lure you in before your kids even know what to do. My kids have adopted several small animals before, most of them with special needs. However, hamsters and dogs are entirely different. My method for preparing the kids for dog adoption includes plenty of exposure to dogs. Based on our experiences, I firmly believe that prior dog exposure educates kids before dog adoption.
Utilize time with dogs belonging to family and friends. My sister has three cute Dachsunds (aka 'weiner dogs'). When she first started bringing them over, two of my kids were terrified of them. But she kept at it and now all of the kids adore the dogs and get excited each time they come over. The kids have also spent quality time with other dogs belonging to family and friends. I feel this opens them up to a wide range of experiences with dogs, both large and small.
Let the kids give basic commands. Part of being a responsible pet parent involves teaching dogs commands. These commands are important for strengthening the bond between your child and the dog. They are also vital in various situations. My sister has already taught her dogs the basic commands. However, she allows my kids to command them and reward her dogs with treats when they comply. This helps to educate them on the kind of commands they should be teaching their future dog. My seven year old has taught her hamster a trick and I believe the idea came in part from giving commands to my sister's dogs.
Spend quality time with shelter dogs. One of our favorite things to do is visit the animals housed by one of the local shelters. The kids and I go interact with the dogs and cats every week, many times more than once each week. Each dog has their own personality. Because of this, I feel it is teaching the kids to adapt to various scenarios they may encounter with their own dog. Some dogs will come up to us right away. Yet others may shy away in the corner until they feel comfortable. We also make toys for the shelter dogs. We sell some of the toys to earn money for the shelter pets and we donate some of the toys as well.
A well-rounded experience with dogs teaches kids what isn't in books. Sure, a book may touch on some of the things kids will experience as a dog parent. In fact, the kids should be studying up as well. But just reading the text is not enough. In order to be fully prepared and well-educated on dog care, one-on-one interaction is an absolute must. What are you doing to prepare your kids for adopting a furry family member?
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network