Teaching Kids to Care

Who's the big winner on the Pets channel? The five lucky members below! Not only are their questions answered by author, Lisa Rosenthal, but they each won a copy of A Dog's Best Friend: An Activity Book for Kids. Do you have anything in common with these puzzled members? Visit our message boards and let us know!

"I had a baby in December and I think my dog is jealous. He acts like he is afraid of the baby and I can't even get him to lay next to her. Why is this? Do you think he is jealous?" --kerrisa

Your dog can see that you are paying a lot of attention to this new creature-- time you used to spend with him. Bingo, jealousy! I'd suggest spending time sitting on the floor with your baby on your lap. Don't pressure your dog to come to you, but call him and see if he'd like a pet. Spending time down on his level will help feed his curiosity and help him see that the baby is important, but not there to replace him.

"My three-year-old has been asking for a dog for nearly a year. How old should she be before we get her a dog? What breed of dog is the best for little kids?" --corallee

Any time is the right time to invite a four-legged member into your family! Right now, you've got two things to consider: a good personality match and the maintenance level of the dog.

There's no breed of dog that is good with all kids, but the key to making a match is taking your four-year-old with you to the shelter. The staff should direct you to a dog that has exhibited personality traits suitable to your family and lifestyle. Watch their interaction when they meet. Does the dog shy away from your four-year-old or run right to her? How does your daughter respond?

Also, while teaching them some responsibility lessons (i.e. having the child feed the dog), having younger children means you will have "maintenance" responsibility for any animal you adopt. Choose wisely.

"My four-year-old son treats the family dog, Shasta, as if she were a huge pillow (make that a punching bag). When we explain to him that he needs to be gentle, he just looks at us like he's not doing anything wrong. What can I do?" --Setiva_95

You must stop this behavior now! If you don't teach your son to treat the dog with respect, behavior problems with YOUR DOG are inevitable. As an author, I believe that kids need to learn about their pets in order to build this respect. My book, A Dog's Best Friend: An Activity Book for Kids and Their Dogs, includes all kinds of information about animal behavior. Whether you and your son are reading together, playing scenting games, making a dog food cake or watching one of the movies listed, it's important to educate your son.

"I owned a cocker spaniel for 15 years, and she was like a member of the family. She died five years ago and now my two daughters (ages 10 and 15) are talking incessantly about getting a puppy. I am a single mom and would really need lots of help, but should I trust their good intentions and take the big step of adding a puppy to our family?" --flag0610

Consider how much time you have available. Puppies require more time and attention than adult dogs. Since you're a single mom and your daughters are of school age, an adult dog might be a better choice. Puppies require a lot of companionship to develop the self-confidence they need to learn obedience. If no one's home, this will be tough.

You might try a test-run by calling your local shelter and inquiring about a foster care program. Some shelters need temporary housing for animals that are healing from an accident or operation. This short-term commitment (about 3-4 weeks) would help you see how helpful your daughters are going to be if you make it permanent.

"Our 15 year-old daughter has always understood that she is partly responsible for our two Lhasa Apso dogs. We've had them for eight years, but now that she's in high school, she's developed a "social life" and along with her studies, rarely has time for them. How can kids be so heartless, yet fall apart if we mention taking the animals away?" --cindyshepp

I understand your daughter's excitement for her budding social life but talk to her about how her needs are similar to your dogs'. Just as she needs to eat and drink, so do the dogs. Regular feeding is a continuing responsibility that she assumed when the Lhasa Apsos were added to your family. Growing up is a wonderful and sometimes scary experience, but responsibility is part of that, too.

How do you teach your family to treat your pet right? Share your secrets now!

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