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How I Got My Kids to Help Take Care of the Dogs

When we first brought our two dogs home I imagined taking them everywhere with me. I imagined they would be well-behaved, listen to commands, and sleep by my feet. I planned to bathe them once a week and send them to the groomers at least once a month.

Then I had kids. And none of that happened. After a few obedience lessons, my Boston Terrier still stares at me when I ask him to lay down and continually jumps when I tell him “no jump.”  During those early years of raising tiny humans, our pets were lucky to get baths maybe twice a month and they’ve only been to a groomer a handful of times.

Now that our daughters are two and four, the dogs are beginning to get more attention and as a family, we are able to devote more time actually enjoying them. Plus it helps that the kids actually like helping take care of Porkchop and Beans—a passion we completely support. Anytime they ask to help we always say, heck yes!

How we keep our kids interested in helping out with the dogs

Exercise

Ever since my daughter turned four she’s been really interested in taking care of a pet. She wants another dog and even has her name picked out: Rosie. The main reason she wants a tiny dog is because we have a large and medium size dog, which makes it difficult to feel like you’re in control of either of them. But we’ve explained to her that it would be really helpful if she was a pro-dog walker before Rosie gets here. (When will we get another dog? I have no idea.) My determined little girl has set out to be the best dog walker yet and practices with Beans and Porkchop. My husband holds leashes but attaches a smaller leash to the dog’s harness so my daughter feels like she’s walking the dog. Luckily the little one copies everything her older sister does and loves to walk the dogs as well.

Plus they love running around with the dogs in the backyard. Tossing balls, which the dogs eventually pop, throwing dog toys and sometimes just running away from them. Hey, doesn’t matter how those calories are burned, right?

Image courtesy Ambrosia Brody

Hygiene

I’m not sure if we just picked the smelliest dogs from the pack or what but Porkchop and Beans need some serious teeth brushing, mouth spray and fur febreezeing every day. My two-year-old loves to spray the dogs’ fur with this febreeze type stuff made for dogs. My husband helps her hold the bottle and they spray the dogs’ fur one by one. I’m not sure what it is about spritzing them with “clean dog” smelling spray that gives her such joy but she loves it.

Teeth brushing is a pretty important part of our morning (sometimes afternoon) and night-time regimen so it’s not that surprising that my four-year-old takes it so seriously, and insists everyone does it. Dogs included. Since our pets hate getting their teeth brushed my daughter is allowed to put the toothpaste on the designated dog toothbrushes so her dad can do the actual brushing. This doesn’t happen every night but when it does it’s usually after the dogs have a bath. But the whole mouth spray happens every single night because they stink.

Image courtesy Ambrosia Brody

Medicine

Our Rottweiler, Beans, needs to take a pill every night for bladder control issues. Our daughters actually ask to give the dogs their pills. We usually do this after they get their Anna and Elsa vitamins, so I think that they like taking care of their pets and keeping them healthy, the way we take care of them.  It’s a nightly routine that happens right before bedtime which is the perfect time for the kids to tell the pups goodnight and see them to their dog beds in the garage. Under my husband’s supervision, my four-year-old gives Beans a pill wrapped in a pill pocket and my two-year-old gives Porkchop a milk bone.

Bath time

This is the messiest and probably most enjoyable chore when it comes to looking after the dogs. My husband takes the lead when it comes to caring for our dogs so he helps the girls wash the dogs. First they brush Beans to remove all the excess hair. My two-year-old typically helps in the beginning but loses interest in the first 10-15 minutes and moves on to throwing rocks in the planter while my husband and eldest daughter brush Beans. Then comes the washing part which the girls absolutely love! They each get a wash cloth with soap on it and when my husband says go they start rubbing her down with soap. Well, my four-year-old does it but the toddler pats on the soap and then walks away to jump in puddles but she comes back when it’s time to wash off the soap with the hose. My husband helps them hold the hose and ensures soap stays out of Beans’ eyes as they aim the water on her coat. Yes, they usually fight over who gets to hold the hose first but whatever, they are giving the dogs a bath.  After they help pat her down with towels they begin the cycle with Porkchop.

Our daughters’ love for the dogs continues to grow every day and so does their interest in helping to take care of them. Of course, it would be easier to just handle some of these chores alone (like the bathing) but there is no way I’d ever tell them no to helping out around the house. NO way.

Now if only I could find a way to make picking up the playroom fun.

Author: Ambrosia Brody

Ambrosia Brody is a full-time editor, journalist and mother to two spirited daughters. She lives in Southern California in a beach city but hates the sand; enjoys people watching but hates small talk. She started to blog at Random Aspects of (My) Life when she realized everything she knew about parenting was wrong. Go visit her at Random Aspects of (My) Life

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