74% of kids have asked for a pet, and they ask for one an average of 11 times per month starting at the age of six, according to one survey of 2,000 parents of school-aged children.
Teaching Your Child About Responsible Pet Ownership
While many may be drawn to the idea of having a cute and fluffy dog or cat around the house, however, getting your child to understand the weight of the responsibility in regard to pet ownership can be challenging. From the value of a meaningful discussion to setting boundaries, here are just a few tips that can help set your child up for responsible pet ownership.
Discussing the expectations involved
Bringing a new pet into the home can be a fantastic idea, though due to the effort involved, it’s important to discuss the expectations of pet ownership with your child beforehand.
According to pediatrician Hannah King, M.D., “parents need to weigh the decision carefully to make sure a new pet is the right decision for the family,” going on to recommend a variety of questions worth asking.
Asking yourself what reasonable expectations for pet care contributions would look like, and what pet would work best for your family’s dynamics are both important aspects to consider.
Creating a reasonable care plan for your child is just one great way to prepare them for responsible pet ownership, and can be carried out via a daily chore chart or other tracking method.
Making safety a priority
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of teaching your child about responsible pet ownership is safety. Teaching your child how to properly pet the animal and to give the pet space are great places to start, though it’s also vital to set boundaries between the child/pet, which will help to prevent unwanted aggression.
In addition to supervising pet interactions, PETA recommends setting a few ground rules, such as never picking up the animal without permission/supervision, never pulling on ears/tails, and never climbing, riding on, or lying on the pet.
According to PETA, teaching your child about consent in relation to interactions with their new pet is also a great lesson — for instance, cues from the animal (such as a growl or hiss), should be taken as a ‘no.’
Teaching your child about pet safety should also encompass your pet’s physical safety as well, especially when it comes to the weather. Explaining that a pet requires the same needs as they do — such as plenty of water during hot weather — is just one place to start, while explaining the dangers of pavement that’s too hot for paws is another vital aspect of safety.
Similarly, discussing the various safety precautions to take during the winter is just as important. For example, discussing the importance of warm shelter, limiting a dog’s walks and protecting a pet with warm clothing and will further help your child to understand how to best care for the pet
Adopting a new pet is exciting for any family, though teaching your child how to care for and respect their new companion is essential in establishing responsible pet ownership habits from a young age.