So, your child wants their own pet. We both know this means more work for you, the parent. There is not much that is more exciting to a child than the prospect of a new pet. The problem is, most of the time the excitement wears off and the responsibilities get tossed aside. So what do you do?
New pet rush and crash
I believe the best way to counteract the “new pet rush and crash” is to find ways to keep your child interested in their new companion. 4-H is a fantastic way to do just this. It’s an organization that provides a path for kids to interact with their pets while also learning about them. 4-H members spend time with their pets at home as well as in groups and at competitions. The new pet enjoyment doesn’t wear off because there is continued interaction within a group atmosphere.
4-H stands for “head” “heart” “hands” and “health”. When people think about 4-H they tend to think about farming, but it’s not just for kids living in rural areas anymore. There are several 4-H clubs that meet and are accessible to kids across America. They describe themselves as, “America’s largest youth development organization—empowering nearly six million young people with the skills to lead for a lifetime.”
Make it group-oriented
4-H teaches young people responsibility and leadership skills that last a lifetime. Members are encouraged to keep meticulous records, learn safe handling skills, anatomy, and have a strong knowledge of health and illnesses related to their pet. Being part of a group makes pet ownership even more fun and the competitive aspect of preparing your pet and yourself for a show gives children a leg up on test preparation later in life. Standing up in front of a crowd with your peers and answering questions from a judge will help kids learn public speaking skills. Children get more comfortable in uncomfortable situations by repetition. After several shows, they won’t think twice about the crowd.
Dreams do come true
The knowledge that I gained in 4-H helped me go from adopting pets to running a pet service business today. My ability to speak clearly, without fear in front of a crowd, my record keeping skills, the ability to read and retain information, and my knowledge of animals help me tremendously in my daily life as an adult. I use all of these skills daily as a small business owner and I credit my time in 4-H with giving me the courage and knowhow to graduate college, work in a public institution, and eventually start my own pet service business.
Take your kids with you to make pet ownership a reality. Find a pet that fits well with your family’s lifestyle and is something your kids will be able to help care for. Then, find a group either online or in person to help your kids get past that new pet rush and crash. Have fun!
About the Author
Jessica Hampton-Diamond is the co-founder and owner of Platinum Leash Pet Care Company located in Portland, Oregon. A mother of three and a pet parent, she writes about animals, people, parenting, and adoption.
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by Jennifer Prill, owner of SideKick Dog Training
[NOTE: This post originally appeared on www.sidekick-dogtraining.com]
Dog parks! In a perfect world, they’re such awesome places to take our SideKicks: You can get some great off-leash training practice in; dogs are able to run free and really stretch their legs inside secure fencing (and, sometimes, parks even have agility equipment for your dog to climb around on); and the dog park provides the opportunity to meet new people and other dogs!
But, there are a few operative words at work there: “In a perfect world.” Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and a wonderful trip to the dog park can turn south very quickly.
Going to the dog park involves so many variables – more than we could ever hope to control or account for – and a lot of the concerning variables revolve around untrained, unruly, off-leash dogs and inattentive or inexperienced dog parents. The dynamics of dog play and dog interactions are sensitive and it only takes the introduction of one new dog to completely throw those dynamics into chaos.
“But, it’s such a great place to socialize your dog!”
Well…yes and no.
As I mentioned, the dog park can be a great place to meet new people and dogs, smell new stuff, experience new sights and places – this is exactly what socialization is! However, proper socialization involves slowly introducing your dog to new things and small challenges in a controlled, positive experience. Proper socialization means you’re doing everything you can to ensure your dog leaves that experience feeling successful!
Proper socialization is not taking your dog some place and plopping them in the middle of a new situation with new dogs and new people. We cannot wave a magic wand with a flourish and shout, “Socialize!” This method of socialization can quickly result in fear of anything and/or everything and definitely doesn’t help your SideKick feel successful tackling new challenges.
I’ve had several clients ask about dog parks, asking if they should go or not; and I’ve had several clients who haven’t had the best experiences with them. To be fair, I’ve probably had a number of clients who have had wonderful experiences at the dog park, but they weren’t noteworthy because nothing went awry.
I’ve never told a client to outright avoid dog parks; they have enough benefits that the dog park experience can be very helpful and a useful tool in the dog-rearing toolbox. However, I’ve made several suggestions to each client who asks:
Go to the dog park during non-peak hours – when there are fewer dogs and you have more control over who your dog interacts with. Fewer dogs means fewer variables to account for in your dog’s interactions.
Go to the park when there are dogs you know there. There’s usually a Saturday or Sunday morning crowd, “the regulars,” or people/dogs who you can socialize with regularly and know already that your dog does well with.
Go when your dog can play appropriately; for instance, avoid the park if your dog is cranky from allergies or is already tired out. An irritable dog is less predictable and not as willing to hang out with other dogs.
Go to the park only when you can dedicate your full, undivided attention to your dog – when you can watch your dog and the other dogs, get yours out of a tight spot if needed, or prevent scuffles from happening in the first place. You’re there to monitor and intervene if necessary. (And there is absolutely no shame in needing to intervene!)
When at the park, try to introduce your dog to the others there one-on-one with appropriate dog greetings. If it doesn’t seem like they’ll be suitable playmates, no worries – just keep them separate. If things really won’t work out or there are too many dogs (or especially if you notice your dog getting overwhelmed or stressed out), pack up and leave. You can go back another time or wander around the park together instead!
Play it by ear and see how things go! And, hey, if you find someone at the park your SideKick gets along really well with, see if the other dog parent is willing to exchange numbers and set up play dates during non-peak hours for the two to romp around safely!
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