Explaining Responsible Pet Ownership to Children

By Suzanne Alicie

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Too many parents want to make sure their child receives a pet when they ask for it and just don’t have the heart to say no if finances or living situations are not ideal for owning a pet. In this case the pet suffers. If you are going to have a pet, it is vital that you understand and explain responsible pet ownership to children – and this is also an important part of the explanation of why they may not be able to have a pet at any given time.

It is a pet peeve of mine to see a family with a toddler get a pet and not teach the child to respect the animal. Tail pulling, carrying them improperly and playing rough with pets is not proper care and may lead to the pet defending itself and then being removed from the home as if it did something wrong. Teaching your children to care for pets can begin early in their lives and will require your attention and supervision.

Pets require more than just a place to live. They need attention, healthy food like CANIDAE and medical care just like your children. If you do get a pet your children will need several lessons on the various aspects of responsible pet ownership in order to learn to respect and appreciate the pet as a family member and to care for it properly with your help.

Children of all ages can understand that being hungry and thirsty mean you need to eat or drink, but they need to be taught how much food and water your pet should have and when to feed it. Explain to them that just as they have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks, the pet also needs to have regular meals and treats. This is one of the first responsibilities that children can assist with when you have a new pet.

Attention and play time is another area where children may require a bit of supervision with the pet. Older children may not give the pet the attention it requires because they are busy with their video games or friends. Younger children may play too rough and possibly hurt your pet. When you get a pet it is important that you explain to your children that they will have to play with it, pet it and love it as well as respect that it is unable to tell them if it is hurt or tired and may instead hiss, scratch, growl or bite at them.

As your children and the pet get to know each other, they will both become more in tune with various moods and personalities. Keep in mind that a new family is an adjustment for your pet as well, and make sure there is plenty of supervised play time for them to get to know one another. The benefits of having pets for children is undeniable, whether the child is young and simply loves animals or is an older child who will benefit from unconditional love.

While children may not understand every aspect of being a responsible pet owner, you teach them by example and show them over time with your pet. Children need to understand that just because a puppy is cute and snuggly he won’t stay that way and he needs a lot more than just cuddling to be happy and healthy. Be an example for your children and teach them that pets are a lifetime investment of love, attention, energy and money. They are not a whim or a fleeting interest; they become a part of the family.

One way to help older children understand why taking on a pet should be a commitment to that pet’s life is to take them to an animal shelter. While there, explain that pets are not disposable when they are inconvenient, that spaying and neutering, medical care and a forever family are what all pets deserve.

CANIDAE is dedicated to helping your pets live long and healthy lives by providing a variety of nutritional food and treats for dogs and cats. Explain responsible pet ownership to your children and help bring up future pet owners; their lives will be richer because of the love of their pets.

Top photo by Cathy Stanley-Erickson
Bottom photo by Arne Hjorth Johansen

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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