Advice about Animals for Kids and Parents


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Getting Your Kids To Be Responsible About The Family Pet

Watching a child interact with a pet can be an amazing display of love and affection that can warm the heart. It can also be a horrible noisy mess. The trick is showing your children the right way to treat the household pets, which isn’t always easy but there are several tricks you can use along the way.

It’s always important to remember that age is a huge factor in how a child interacts with the family pets. A younger child is much more likely to be entertained by a pet but forget about the responsibilities that go along with it. For that reason it’s never a good idea to give to much responsibility to young child, but its always a good idea to try to include everyone in some areas of care for your families pets. You can let your youngest children be in charge of (supervised) feedings, which will not only let them feel involved but will also give them a sense of responsibility. As children get older increase responsibilities, age nine is a good time for a child to take on a pet of their own, but remember for some children they can be ready earlier and some won’t ever really be interested. It takes a village to raise a child and that saying fits in perfect with the family pet as well. No matter who the primary care giver is, it is the family’s responsibility as a group to care for their pets and everyone should be expected to pitch in.

Don’t get into the routine of using threats or scare tactics to get your children to take the dog for a walk or fill his water bowl. If you broke down to a child’s constant begging for a puppy and now find yourself up at 7.30 in the morning on Saturday taking Spot for a walk don’t threaten to give the dog away, unless your really considering it (which would be a shame). Try to work with your children and get them to understand the importance of all the little things that go into caring for an animal and turn it into something that you and your child can share.

A good trick is to switch walking the family dog from a daily choir to something fun. Let the guys (dad and son) take the dog out and spend sometime together or use it as a reward. Allow a child to walk the dog only after they have proved they can handle it. You can also set up rewards as a fun treat that are associated with the achievement of different responsibilities. You can give the reward of a trip to the dog park after your children have taken the dog on 15 walks. This will not only incorporate your children into caring for your pets but it will allow them to enjoy it.

Remember that sometimes it’s better to start small; don’t always jump to get your little one the puppy or kitty that they’ve been begging for. Make them work for it. Start out with something that is simple for them to care for and that you can check on easily. A good idea is a fish tank or one of my favorites when I was a kid, newts and salamanders. They are easy to take care for, don’t bite, are slow moving, and require parts of both water and land in the aquarium, which makes for some interesting viewing. Remember that a family pet does require some attention and care but the rewards greatly outweigh the responsibilities.