Dogs and Teenagers Creating a Healthy Relationship
by: Dwight Healer
The family dog (Fido) many times becomes just another chore as kids become teens and their school, sports and other interests start to dominate their lives. Dogs seem relaxed around younger children's inconsistent behavior but as kids appear more like adults this type of interaction can become very stressful to a dog. Being proactive may well avoid the tragic miss treatment of the family dog from immature teens who may believe they have unlimited latitude on how they deal with Fido. Creating an environment for teens and dogs to experience a positive relationship as they both grow older requires a couple ground rules.
First the parent needs to be established as the primary care giver, therefore anything to do with physical care, discipline, and diet is exclusively the parent's decision. These areas of a dog's life need to be conveyed to family members as Fido's core areas of care. When teens understand there are areas of Fido's living experience that they must respect and defer to their parents it gives them a positive structure for interacting with the family dog. Without this structure there is the danger a teen's immature decision making process can lead to excessive stress or even abuse experienced by the family dog. Although the parents are responsible for the core aspects of Fido's care it is important for other family members to share in caring for Fido. Various tasks allow for positive and structured interactions with Fido improving the chance a teen will react properly in random situations that arise. Also when teens are performing tasks or interacting in general with Fido they will learn if the situation crosses into the core areas of the dog's care where they need the parents to become involved. The objective is to reduce the chance, they are coerced by someone or something to handle the dog incorrectly.
Secondly the family dog should be given small areas to sleep and eat that are dedicated for him/her. Because dogs are pack animals keeping them outside excluded from the family is unhealthy for their psychology. A kennel, crate or dog bed will be a place where your dog can retreat to and feel safe while being in the proximity of its surrogate pack mates. Canines sense when areas are dedicated for them and people should avoid commanding the dog to do stuff when they are sleeping our eating in their dedicated space. In turn enforcing off-limit areas for them will be less stressful for Fido. Fido will also be able to sleep and eat better when they sense they are in a space others are not trying to occupy. In conclusion dogs thrive on structure and discipline everything your teens are trying to avoid. Establishing yourself as the boss and following the guidelines for your dog’s basic needs sets the foundation for success in your teens relationship with the family dog. Hopefully your teen will see the family dog as not chore but an experience that enriches the family experience.