Almost three years ago we adopted our Yellow Labrador, Oliver, and having never grown up with dogs, I never thought I could love an animal as I love this zany, sweet, and incredibly lovable 6 year old dog. Oliver provides tons of entertainment for our family, garners more likes and hearts on Facebook and Instagram than any other photos I post, and almost became the star of a new blog this summer until too much pool time hampered our efforts. It’s no surprise that he inspires the kids to want to learn everything they can about dogs.
We recently received How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language from National Geographic Kids and my 7 year old reluctant reader immediately grabbed it and squirreled it away in his room. For days he poured over the content learning about pinned back friendly ears, the different kinds of bars, various postures of dogs in the Body Talk section, and so much more.
Not only did I love that he was reading on his own without prompting but that the book came at a perfect time to fit with what he was learning about non-fiction text features at school. Gorgeous photos, colorful text that can be found in the titles and stating facts next to the pictures, speech bubbles next to the dogs, and practical vet tips from co-author Dr. Gary Weitzman make this book fun for both kids and adults to read.
Dr. Gary Weitzman is a veterinarian and dog expert whose experience includes 20 years a practicing vet, running the Washington Animal Rescue League in Washington, D.C., and an animal expert for National Public Radio’s The Animal House who currently heads up the San Diego Humane Society. I recently had the chance to talk to Dr. Gary about his book, hear his tips on preparing kids for a first dog, and ask him questions about Oliver’s behavior.
Dr. Gary said on our call that “there’s no better way to teach kids responsible and humane care for animals than with a pet.” I know this has been true in our family and in honor of October being Adopt a Dog Month and our adopted dog, Oliver, I wanted to share Dr. Gary’s tips for families to prepare kids for their first dog.
1. “Start the conversation 2-3 months before you get your first dog,” recommends Dr. Gary. My husband and I discussed adopting a dog long before we told the kids we were going to do so. We researched various rescue organizations and submitted applications before we told the kids because it can take awhile to find the dog that’s the right fit for your family. When we were ready to tell the kids, we involved them immediately by going to adoption events in our area but we were also very realistic about the fact that we might not be bringing a dog home right away and shared that it was very important to find a dog that was right for us.
2. Discuss what responsibility your children will have with the animal. Dr. Gary recommends having an agreement that outlines responsibilities for when the animal comes home. Responsibilities for your pet depend largely on the ages of your children. Our kids were 5 and 7 when we adopted Oliver and have grown up around our in-laws two dogs and their 11 sheep so were no strangers to responsibilities involving taking care of and feeding animals. Since they were old enough to help take care of Oliver when we brought him home, we tasked them with feeding him. Little Miss Techie always feeds him in the morning while Captain Computer gets dinner duty. There are times where they help each other out and they often will fill his water dish without being asked.
3. Involve the kids in the dog selection process. Dr. Gary gives parents the right to full veto power but he feels it’s important to meet with an adoption counselor at a shelter to help you determine which dog will be the best match. “Most adoption counselors know this is a life-long commitment for the animal,” said Dr. Gary. They’re committed to making everyone happy but in the event that the adoption isn’t working out, shelters do accept dogs back to ensure that they will find the right placement.
I received a copy of How to Speak Dog: A Guide to Decoding Dog Language as a National Geographic Kids Insider (#NGKInsider). This is not a compensated program although I am provided with books for review and the opportunity to review experts like Dr. Gary. All opinions are my own and based on our dog adoption experience with Oliver. Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post.