Everyone falls in love when they first pick up their new puppy. That soft fur, those shining eyes, that little pink tongue—who could resist?
But three months down the line, you suddenly find yourself stuck with the daily-walk-and-picking-up-dog-droppings-duty while the kids are M.I.A.
If your children are clamoring for a dog, cat, or even goldfish, pause before caving in. Pets can be one of two things: an overwhelming responsibility or an amazing teaching opportunity. With the right expectations, your kids could actually help raise their new furry friend.
Read on for some tips to make your child a professional pet lover.
#1 Bring Them to Animal-Friendly Experiences
Before you dip your toes into adoption waters, make sure your kid is comfortable around pets. Remember, the idea of a puppy is not the reality of housetraining, walks, feeding… you get the picture.
Here are some ways to expose your children to real-life pet care:
● Neighborhood help – Got a neighbor with a pet? Ask if your family can pet-sit when they’re out of town. Your child will get to experience firsthand the duties that they might take on as a pet owner.
● Volunteer – Almost every humane society has a volunteer program. Whether it’s walking dogs or playing with guinea pigs, kids can practice their nurturing skills as a volunteer.
● Zoo visits – Lions, tigers, and bears… okay, so that’s not exactly what you have in mind for a family pet. But for toddlers, zoos are an engaging and educational way to learn about animal care (as long as they’re focused on preservation, not profits and performances).
#2 Include Them as Adopters
We’ve all seen the iconic image of a puppy squirming out of a beautiful, ribboned-up box on Christmas Day. But picking out a pet with your kids will help them feel more responsible for its care.
Also, pass on some ethical standards while you’re at it. Instead of adopting from a puppy mill or purebred establishment, look into rescue services and humane societies. The Shelter Projectprovides a search engine for all the cat and dog rescue facilities in your zip code. Not to mention the cute profiles for each potential furry friend.
#3 Teach Them Animal Health
Pet playtime is an easy sell. But to show that pets are living beings—not just toys—let your kids help with pet healthcare. When kids see that their dog needs a vet just like they need a doctor, they’ll gain a higher level of empathy.
And pet wellness doesn’t have to stop at veterinarians. Nurture your pet’s health at home, too! On family outings and vacations, help your children pack up a pet emergency kit to teach them about essential needs. And to keep them happy and healthy at home, everyone can help give a bath or even a soothing CBDfx pet tincture to your fur baby.
#4 Assign a Simple Chore
When it comes to keeping kids responsible for their shiny new pet, the key is simplicity (so ditch the color-coded chore chart and four-page annotated to-do list for something more manageable).
Regardless of your kid’s age, be sure to assign them achievable pet care duties. And if you have multiple kids, you better evenly split the chores (they’d never let you hear the end of it, if not).
Some examples of kid-friendly pet care activities include:
● Walking & playtime – For hyperactive dogs, supervise your kids during walks or playtime to avoid any mishaps. A kid-friendly dog leash is a great way to warm them up to the responsibility.
● Feeding – Simple and necessary, feeding is a great chore for younger kids. Teach your child a fun song to announce that it’s chowtime, and they’ll beam with excitement.
● Grooming – This one’s for older or more mature children since grooming requires attention to detail and patience. Keep a nifty all-purpose brush, and your kid could help groom both the cat and the dog (and don’t forget to clip those claws—that is, if they’ll let you get anywhere near!)
On Your Mark, Get Pet, Go!
If it’s your first ride at the pet rodeo, take it easy and slow—even a goldfish is a great way to teach responsibility. With these tips, your kids will be earning gold stars for their nurturing skills before their pet is even potty-trained.