To kids, dogs often must be a chore or they are ignored.

How often has your kid grown tired of a new toy, hobby or sport at school?

Many kids under 15 grow tired of everything at some point. Then they get some freedom around 15/16 and nothing else matters but their journey to independence.

Human nature, normal, unavoidable, life…right?! Where does that leave your family pet?

Many kids and families are overjoyed at their new puppy or family dog. It’s so exciting and fun at first. That can quickly fade. Cleaning up poop, feeding the dog, brushing the dog, having to play with the dog instead of watching youtube are all serious bummers to many kids after a certain point. You can’t blame them. It’s normal and natural. If certain things like cleaning your room, doing your homework, only an hour of tv aren’t rules and chores, then they would never be done or followed. Taking care of an animal has to be the same thing. Kids interests in animals will often fade. Not always, but often they will lose interest at some point. Making taking care of the dog a chore they have to do daily, like homework, is what keeps them responsible and teaches the importance of not just casting a living thing aside. (I could argue more important then homework…but I think that might be an opinion, haha)

I grew up on a farm, so I understand my experience is different than most. However, I was a very busy teenager and it could be 10 o’clock at night and if I didn’t make time to feed the animals before my game, practice, etc., I was putting boots on over pajamas and heading out into the freezing cold to feed and watering them. This also helped me with time management! My parents would supervise, lead by example and help when I really needed it. Outside animals usually ate before we did. Every night it was the same list of questions. Did you feed the “insert barn or animals here”. Since my brothers were slightly less reliable, they got more questions. “Did you feed and water? Did you dump the water and then refill it?” And the list goes on.

Then, certain times of the year, it would be questions on how I spent time with them or groomed them. “Did you brush Sandy after you worked with him? Did you spend some time with the baby goats to socialize them? How did Shannon do today?” Any complaining or trying to get out of work would have me right back out there doing what I was supposed to be doing except now heavily supervised. If I didn’t have the time or lost interest in an animal, my parents would take care of more of the exercise and attention when they could. I was still responsible for the basic needs, feeding and grooming. No exceptions. I went through phases of not being interested in certain animals. I went through periods of time where I favored certain pets over others and still didn’t make time for them more then what I HAD to do. I was a kid, then I was a teenager. That’s normal. The thing is though, that consistency and responsibility brought me back to those animals when I was older. Conversations about going out Friday after school were about making sure someone was home to feed first or I would be home early enough to do it. If I had to leave school for a game, the family stepped in to help. If I just wanted to go to the movies, I was doing my chores before I was able to go. I’m not saying everyone needs to be that strict, but the self sacrifice of putting others first over my own wants, especially when I didn’t want to, is something of such high value that only an innocent and loving animal can truly teach you…paired with countless times of your mom yelling to get your chores done or you won’t get to do anything, including eat dinner.

They need you and they depend on you to teach younger generations the importance of their existence and the responsibility we have to them. As people we must respect that and know how valuable that is to teach at a young age.

I didn’t mean to get all soap boxy, but for a kid, doing things you don’t want to do is as valuable of a lesson you can learn to prepare them for adulthood. Chores are important and if the family pets are not part of those chores, than the child may never make their way back around to the animal again. Then, something much worse happens. When they get a dog because they want something to love on as an adult, they will not have the fortitude, mindset or discipline to do so and the animal suffers. Dogs are not something for us to only dump our emotions and love onto. That does a huge disservice to the animal…even a little fluffy maltese. They need their basics to live. That is food, water, grooming and veterinary care. All things that can be chores. Then they need things to do, to be taught how to do basic obedience for mental enrichment, be walked and played with for exercise, be taught boundaries and rules. All the job of the parents with the kids help when they want to. That way the kid learns by example and then grow up to be more likely to do the same. I hope that this is something we can all agree on the importance of and rededicate ourselves to teaching it in whatever way we can.

-Bethany Wilson