Three kids helping to walk a dog while parents walk in the background


We Got a Dog and My Kids Still Help a Year Later

Jan 11, 2018

We knew we were in trouble when our son got a part-time job walking our neighbour’s dog while they were out of town. The pleas started almost immediately.

“Please, can we get another dog?”

We had had a dog before. She was older, calm, lovely — and already trained. Eventually she got sick and we had to say goodbye. That was three years ago.

But at age 10, nine and six, our three kids — who couldn’t agree on anything — had hatched a plan: work together to relentlessly beg mom and dad for a dog. It worked (eventually) and about a year ago we got a sweet Bernese mountain dog puppy named Juno. Before we did though, we put some rules in place (and stuck with them) and now, a year later, our kids are still helping.

We asked them for money

First we asked our kids to pony-up some cash. Puppies aren’t cheap and we knew our kids would be serious about helping if they were willing to fork over birthday or Christmas money they’d been saving. Turns out forcing our kids to have some financial skin in the dog game did make them take their role as dog owners more seriously.

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We treated them like dog owners from the start

Because they were helping pay for the dog, we let them have an equal vote in which dog we’d get and let them name it. Every step of the way, from visits to the breeder to bringing home our pup, we reminded them that dog ownership was a big responsibility and that Juno was a living thing and not a toy they could discard when they lost interest.

We let them pick realistic dog-related chores — and set a schedule

Next we made them decide which dog-related chores they’d do, then we set a schedule and stuck with it. We made sure their promises were realistic, so when our youngest said she’d walk the dog “all the time” while giving us her master-manipulator smile, we didn’t buy it. Instead, her job became refilling his water bowl, helping clean up his mess and playing with Juno to help burn energy (bonus: this tires out both dog and child). Now that Juno is sleeping through the night, our older two kids alternate mornings with him. That means they get up with him, let him outside, feed him, fill his water bowl and, of course, play with him.

We brought them to dog training classes

When Juno was old enough, we enrolled in dog training classes and took turns bringing our older two kids along so they would know how to handle him. They learned basic commands like sit, stay, and “let’s go” as well as how to walk Juno properly. Because dog training doesn’t stop at the end of class, they practiced at home nearly every day with Juno too.

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We decided what we could live with

Finally we set guidelines for what we could — and could not — live with. We take Juno to the dog park and walk him, though our son helps with that sometimes too. If Juno happens to have an accident in the house, we’re the ones who clean it. We could live with all of that. We could not live with our kids’ having an intense enthusiasm in Juno for the first few months, then losing interest and leaving us holding the (poop) bag.

It hasn’t all been perfect — there are still some arguments over whose morning it is and the odd complaint, but at least our kids are still attentive to Juno, and helping while learning responsibility. Their commitment and love for Juno has outlasted their interest in the latest hot toy and that’s something my husband and I can definitely live with.

Juno the dog

A photo taken of Juno by one of the kids.

Article Author Kelly Pedro
Kelly Pedro

Kelly Pedro is a former journalist turned freelance writer who specializes in writing about education, health and literacy. Her work has appeared in several publications including The London Free Press, The Toronto Star and Today’s Parent. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario with her husband, three children and Juno, the Bernese mountain dog. Connect with Kelly on her website, Twitter, LinkedIn or Alignable.

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