Welcome to Best of Friends: Kids and Dogs - a website for fourth through sixth graders. When it comes time to invite a pet into a family, most of the time it will be a dog. Before making the final decision, there are all kinds of questions that need to be asked and answered. Best of Friends: Kids and Dogs will help your students sort out what they need to know and get past the novelty and emotions connected with a cute, cuddly puppy. This preparation should help to avoid brief dog ownership that results in abandonment or the dog going to a shelter after the novelty wears off.
Owning a pet helps to instill caring and responsible behaviors that will carry on into adult life. Research shows that having pets enhances a child’s self-esteem, and teaches responsibility and respect towards other living beings. Children with a pet are more likely to be involved in activities such as sports, chores, clubs, and hobbies. Children suffering from ailments show significant improvement in their treatment procedures when an animal is involved.
Another goal of Best of Friends: Kids and Dogs is for young people to understand the role dogs play as lifetime companions and valuable members of the "working world."
Choose any and all of the suggested activities for your class. Many activities are for students to work independently and some are for group work.
Illinois Learning Standards
We in University of Illinois Extension hope you enjoy teaching Best of Friends: Kids and Dogs to your students and helping students learn all about dogs.
A Kennel of Activities
- Dogs have played important roles in history throughout the world. Ask the students to research and write a short essay about how a dog was an important part of history-making event.
- Dogs came from all parts of the world. Some dogs carry the name of their place of origin. Investigate where different dog breeds originated and locate on a world map, the country, region, and town (if pertinent) of where the breed began. For instance, a German Shepherd was developed as a working dog specializing in herding and police work in Germany.
- Research the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska. How long is the race and where does it begin and where does it end? What challenges and conditions do the dogs face? How do the dogs train? How many dogs are needed on a sled? Why do they do it?
Math and Science
- Rank dogs by size - smallest to largest by height or by weight. Make a graph showing the differences in size. You could use percentages to compare a small dog like a toy poodle that weighs 5 pounds to a Great Dane that weighs 100 pounds. So the Great Dane is ____% bigger. You could make silhouettes of the various breeds to compare size and make a bulletin board display showing the differences.
- Look at dog parasites under a microscope. What does a flea look like? How fast do they multiply? Where do they live? How do you get rid of them? A veterinarian may be able to share actual preserved specimens with the class.
- Ask a veterinarian to visit the group and discuss dog care and hygiene. The vet can bring a dog or you may ask students to bring their dog so the vet can show how to brush a dog, clean teeth properly, and care for the ears, nails, and coat properly.
- Comparison shop for dog food. Compare costs and then determine how much it would cost to feed your dog for a week, month and a year. Use the worksheets Compare the Cost of Dry Dog Food and Compare the Cost of Canned Dog Food. You may want to compare brands, sizes, and ingredients.
- Compare two different breeds of dogs and create a poster about their difference and similarities. The studentscould compare their coat, size, color, structure, speed, weight, average life span, and special care. Are there special things they are known for?
- Invite a dog breeder to meet with the class. Ask him to discuss the history of the breed, interesting facts about the breed, why he chose this breed, how he cares for his dogs, and if he shows his dogs.
- Find out if your local police department has a canine unit. Ask them to come to your class to demonstrate the special skills and abilities of a police dog.
- Invite representatives from your local animal shelter to meet with the group to discuss the purpose of the shelter and how they care for the animals.
- Establish a dog library. Include books that are non-fiction, fiction, scientific, how-to books, biographies, and picture books. Ask each student to select and read a book and write or give a report on the book.
- Scan the local newspaper or watch TV for stories about dogs being a hero. What did they do to deserve such an honor? How were they recognized?
- Make a book of quotes about dogs and illustrate it with drawings.
- Ask to students to write an essay or poems about their dog or a dog that they wish they had.
- Ask the students to select one of the following sayings, interpret it and illustrate it - "Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job" or "Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails."
- Pet care is big business. One category is pet treats. Search out all of the different dog treats available in stores. How many are there? What makes them different from each other? Which one do you think is the most unusual and why? Describe it.
- Hollywood Dog Stars - Make a list of dogs that have appeared in movies and cartoons. What is their name and what movie were they in? Are there any dogs that have a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or have won an Oscar?
- Name some of the most famous dog and human friendships. Many are found in movies, stage plays, TV programs or books. (Examples: Timmy and Lassie; Mickey Mouse and Pluto; Old Yeller and Travis Coates)
- There are songs that have dogs names in the title or lyrics. Brainstorm all the songs they can think of - (For example, You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog, Who Let the Dogs Out?).
- Have a dog naming contest for a stuffed dog that would become the class mascot.
- Divide the students into groups of three or four. Each group is a dog park design team. On a poster they are to come up with the best dog park design including what they think dogs would most like in their park. Have the park designs posted on the walls and ask each design team to present their ideas to the local park superintendent, mayor or principal.
- If there is a dog in the family, make a paw print of the dog to bring in to share with the group. Are there differences in size and shapes? Be sure to write the dog's name, breed if you know it, age, and a special note about the dog on the page.
- How are dogs celebrated in your town or city? Are there dog parades, dog costume parades, dog festivals or some churches that have special services for the blessing of the animals? Do the students have photos they can share with the class?
Dogs at Work
Some dogs actually have jobs and very important jobs. Ask the class to investigate or research some of the jobs dogs do. Research the various jobs, how the dogs are selected for the job, what training do they receive and how long do they keep the job. (Examples: Guide dogs, cadaver dog; narcotics dog; bomb sniffers; movie stars; sheep herder; hunting dogs; customs dog or therapy dog.)