Imagine a world without animals…how empty it would be!  Lindsey Concer, marketing manager for the SPCA, takes us on a journey to find the perfect family pet.

A pet can be a truly wonderful thing in a child’s life.  They are loyal, loving friends and can teach your child many valuable life lessons.  Owning and caring for an animal teaches a child compassion, sympathy and respect and it is also a great way to teach responsibility. However, as parents, we need to remember the responsibility for the pet’s well-being will ultimately fall on us.

We are constantly bombarded with adorable animal photos and videos on Social Media, one of the favourites being the surprise gift of a puppy given to a child.  However sweet this may be to watch, this is not the most responsible way to go about adding a pet to your family.

How do we choose a pet?                                                                                                                        

Your child should be included in the process of deciding to get a pet.  Preferably your child should do some of their own research on what kind of pet would be suitable and what type of care they will need.  Things like the size of your garden, or how much time you have to spare for training etc. should be considered.  This is also a good time to teach your child about what it means to have a pet, the cost involved in feeding and veterinary care for example.

Before making the decision, perhaps visit your local animal shelter.  Let your child speak to the staff there and find out the challenges they face, and the importance of adopting, over shopping at pet stores or buying from breeders.

Taking care of a pet                                                                                                                                     

Talk to your child beforehand about what chores they will be in charge of with your new pet.  Some appropriate chores could be the following:

  • Put food and water in bowls – parental supervision is required with dogs as they can become excited and nip and bite when food is involved.
  • Help with cleaning and maintenance of pet areas, such as shaking out pet beds or blankets from kennels or, washing and cleaning pet bowls.
  • Grooming and possibly bathing, depending on the pet’s size (parent assisted).
  • Help with exercise and walking, depending on pet’s size (parent assisted.
  • Cleaning up after a pet when it goes to the bathroom, with parent making sure the child washes his hands thoroughly afterwards.

Children over the age of 10 are old enough to take over caring for their pet by themselves. They should no longer need your assistance or reminders to complete their chores.

Remember, the best way to teach your children how to be responsible pet owners, is to show them by setting a good example as one yourself.  When you are having a busy day, make sure you still make time to walk the dog or brush the cat.  Children will be encouraged to follow your lead when they are made part of these activities.

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