Have your kids expressed interest about adding a dog, cat, hamster, or other pet into your family? Although you want to say yes because you know how much your kids want a pet, you are worried they aren’t ready for the responsibility of caring for a living creature. The following tips will help you communicate all that goes into being a good pet owner so you can say yes with confidence:
Establish age-appropriate chores
Although each member of your family will want to help with the pet, everyone’s strengths differ. Your three-year-old is not ready for the responsibilities that your 12-year-old can handle. Once you have created a comprehensive chore list of pet-related responsibilities, divvy them up by age. Your little one (ages four-five) can “assist” you with chores like dropping a treat on the floor when your pet has earned praise for learning a new task or for good behavior, advises FamilyEducation.com writer Laura Richards. Bigger kids between the ages of six and eight will be eager to take on responsibilities, but they should always be supervised by an adult or older sibling when interacting with the family’s pet, she adds.
“Teaching simple tricks and commands, and playing fetch are all great ways for your child to care for his pet's need for stimulation and attention. Children this age can also learn to brush their cat or dog correctly (head to tail in the direction the coat is growing) with supervision,” according to Richards.
Inspire a strong work ethic
Owning a pet is a lot of work for kids and grown-ups alike. There may be a time the grind of daily pet chores or responsibilities becomes less attractive for kids. If your kids are failing at their responsibilities, you must encourage them to do better without finger pointing or guilt-trips.
“Too much criticism can cause feelings of failure in themselves or anger toward the innocent pet. Instead, find out why chores aren’t getting done and find a way to renew your children’s interest in their responsibilities,” advises Topp.
When your child is begging for a pet, they aren’t seeing the work that goes into keeping a pet happy and healthy. They are blinded by the cuteness, the cuddles, and the fun. It is your job to outline all the responsibilities, chores, and tasks that go into good pet care in a way your child can comprehend. To help you get your point across, Erin Topp, CPDT-KA, owner of Topp Canine Solutions, LLC, author of The Five Dog Blog, and Parenting.com contributor suggests creating a list of pet-related chores and responsibilities everyone in the family can share.
“Discuss why the chore is important and what could happen to their pet if the chore is not done (the animal could go hungry or get sick, for example),” she writes. “Remember to serve as a role model. Children can learn responsible pet care by observing your behavior.”
Welcoming a pet into your household can bring joy, excitement, and fun for everyone. With these tips for pet ownership, everyone can share in the love and responsibilities of caring for a furry family member.