Teen Playing With Dog

Can a 13 year old take care of a dog?

Tara Cunningham Teen Issues

Deciding to get any pet is a big decision. Buying one specifically for a tween / teenager will take some further thought. Here’s some tips to help you decide.

A 13 year old is an appropriate age to get a dog. The care of the animal needs to be clearly explained for success.

1. Create a plan
2. Careful selection of a dog
3. Teaches responsibility
4. Keeping momentum of owning a pet
5. Benefits of owning a personal pet

A dog is man’s best friend. Loyal companions. There by your side always. All sounds quite the fairytale. And of course it can be. But if you are thinking about getting a dog for your teen they need to know the work that is involved in caring for a dog.

Create a plan

The decision to add a pet to the family may be because of a couple of reasons. The first that your teen has begged you for a dog and you are finally considering giving in. Or that you feel your teen might benefit from owning a dog. These are two very different scenarios, however they may have the same either positive or negative outcome.

Positive outcome is always better obviously. This will result in said dog arriving and teen takes on the new role whole heartedly. Completing all the chores that go with taking care of a dog.

Negative outcome, even when the dog was begged for, 100% interest and caring for a week or so and then the interest wanes and you as the parent now have something else to take care of. Which is not at all ideal, if you are like me, already have a million chores to do in a day.

My advice is before you decide on the dog arriving, sit down with your teen and create a plan. They need to understand that having a dog is not like having a toy. They need to cover at least all the basics every day, without fail. If they can’t then they need to organize a back up (a sibling) every now and then if they are going to be away from home. But ultimately the dog is their responsibility.

1. Provide food twice a day
2. Fresh water always available
3. Exercised every day
4. Clean area to sleep
5. Bond with him

Owning a living animal is hard work. They need to know it’s not just two minutes downtime from their cell a day. Dogs are very social and like company.

If the dog is your idea then you may have to realize some of these chores until your teen grows to love their new dog. Quite understandably you may get thrown the ‘I never wanted a dog!’ but persevere as the benefits will definitely outweigh in the long run.

Careful selection of a dog

This might seem obvious. Big dog. Small dog. But going to the pound to select a dog can be a minefield. You get there and everyone has a different idea about the best choice.

Ultimately the choice should be with your teen. They need to make a connection with their new best friend.

Do some research before you choose. The size of your dog is going to matter if you have a small garden you need a small pooch.

You also need to consider how big is your dog going to grow. If they choose a larger dog are they going to be able to control him while out for a walk.

The other point to think about is what kind of teenager have you got. If your teenager is quiet, stay at home type, then a smaller quieter breed might suit. But maybe you feel your teen is too quiet and a brasher more lively dog might get him/ her out in the fresh air. Dogs to consider might be:

These are all listed breeds and if your teen has decided on a specific breed then you need to prepare for the cost of a bred dog. I would say don’t discount the local pound or shelter where so many are euthanized because they never find their forever home. The selection is more limited but they aren’t any less adorable.

This could also play a part in the overall maintenance or care of your teens new dog. If they know that they have ‘saved’ it the dog may become more loved. Ultimately the choice needs to be your teens. If they really wanted Dog A and you insist on Dog B well then you could be back to the ‘I never wanted that dog!’ It’s a case of gentle manipulation. Try and guide your teen to the appropriate sized dog if nothing else.

Teaches Responsibility

Owning a dog is a huge responsibility. This is a fantastic way for your 13 year old to gain some maturity.

The initial ownership of a pet may have some teething problems. Teens don’t have to think about feeding themselves, that usually just happens when food appears on the table. Getting them into the habit of feeding an animal may take some time. The key is not to nag!

We talked about creating a plan before the dog arrives but now that plan needs to be put into action. The feeding and watering are probably the easier parts of pet ownership. The cleaning up and walking might take some encouragement. Lots of praise is the key here.

Teens sometimes feel that they can’t do anything right. They feel clumsy and awkward with their growing bodies. A pet can take their minds off this along with making them feel somewhat adult.

Owning and caring for a pet creates love and caring within your teen. They learn that the more time they put in with their new friend the greater the bond will be. This then relays to other humans in your teens life, be it other kids at school, or adults in their lives. They learn the importance of mutual respect, that will hopefully last throughout their adult life.

Having a pet also teaches your teen to communicate more. Having the responsibility of ownership of a dog (hopefully!) teaches them to speak out if there is a problem or if they need help. This is a huge bonus as a parent, as we all know how difficult it is to sometimes get teens to reach out.

Keeping Momentum of a Pet

What do I mean by momentum? The excitement of picking a dog or even the acknowledgement that a dog is finally allowed is immense. That excitement can last well into the first couple of months. But then the reality of the feeding, walking and caring can dissipate. It’s important to keep that enthusiasm going. A dog is not just for Christmas!

So how do you keep your 13 year old enthused? If you see the interest dropping I would suggest some kind of training classes (budget permitting) or there is a multitude of videos online. Get them to teach their new dog some tricks or even basic commands. This will reinforce their bond and also the continuity of care.
I always remember a friend of my moms, years ago, when I was a new mom, telling me to never make a threat unless you are going to follow through on it. So try not to have the ‘I’m bringing the dog back, unless you start caring for it’ conversation, unless you are genuinely going to take the dog back. Kids and especially teens see right through empty threats and this definitely won’t get the dog walked.

Benefits of your 13 year old owning their own dog

The benefits of a 13 year old owning a dog far outweigh them not having one. Apart from the responsibility they now have a listening ear. Someone to discuss their deepest thoughts with. They can be kids and play for that bit longer without having to hide it from their friends, who suddenly are all grown up. Their dog can be a shoulder to cry on if their day is not going so great.

A dog makes your teen think of someone other than themselves and in the long run that can only be a good thing.

A dog can calm stress in a teen. They have so much pressure in their day to day lives with social media and constantly being ‘on’ that a dog can aid them step away from that.

Owning a dog in the park can increase social confidence. It is a great talking point, and a great way of making new friends.

My advice is yes a 13 year old can definitely look after and care for a dog. But they may need some help initially. Although the new dog is going to be owned by your teen it will be a new family member and should be treated as one. Everyone should be involved in its upkeep. Whether your teen chose a small lap dog or a bouncy lab the benefits to your teen are immeasurable. Get searching for the perfect pooch!

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Mum, Graphic designer, Website owner, Writer at Tweentotwenty | Website

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.