Sooner or later, the time will come when one of your kids asks for a pet. How you handle this request is up to you of course, but bringing a furry friend into your household can help to teach your child about empathy, responsibility and can even increase verbal and social skills, so it’s an idea that’s at least worth considering.
The therapeutic and developmental benefits of caring for pets from a young age are well documented. However, introducing an animal to the household is not without its challenges, so you need to know that the whole family is ready for the commitment. Here are five tips to help you teach your kid how to look after a pet.
Teach Non-Verbal Cues
Before you bring a pet into your household, consider whether your child is old enough to read and understand non-verbal cues. As much as we love animals, there’s no denying that they can be unpredictable; some pets (including certain dog breeds) can become aggressive if they feel scared or threatened, so teaching proper communication is vital for the safety of both the pet and your child.
Start by teaching your kid to leave dogs and cats alone while they’re eating or sleeping, and to understand your pet’s body language. Behaviour such as growling, lowering their tail, hunching down or hissing indicates that an animal is feeling frightened or upset, so children should know to leave pets well alone if they act this way.
Get Your Kid Involved
Teaching your child to look after a pet is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and getting him or her involved can help increase confidence, awareness and empathy. Let your child help you feed and groom your pet and come with you to vet appointments. Young children can also help clean out litter boxes or cages to understand the less-than-fun responsibilities that come with owning a pet.
Teach Pet Health
Studies indicate that when children become educated about pet health and wellbeing, they are more likely to treat them kindly. Find a good healthcare provider for your pet that will help put your kids at ease when your pet gets ill or has to have vaccinations; that way, your children will see that medical appointments are nothing to be afraid of. Visit thevet.co.uk for affordable, experienced pet care with no appointments necessary.
Teach Pet Safety
As well as keeping your kids safe, you also need to know that you can keep a pet safe before you bring one into your home. Make sure your kids abide by basic safety rules, such as not letting a dog out into the street and not feeding human food to pets: this is especially important, as some foods like grapes and chocolate can be poisonous to dogs.
It sounds obvious, but make sure your kids know that they should never yell at or hit a pet. It’s best to supervise smaller children interacting with dogs, cats and other household pets at all times.
Don’t Shirk Your Responsibilities
While it’s important to teach your kids to care for animals, you should keep in mind that the ultimate responsibility lies with you: the parent. Don’t assume that your child or teenager has fed or walked a pet, and always follow up to make sure. Having a pet is incredibly rewarding and can be beneficial for all areas of human health, but you need to know that the whole family (including you) are up to the task.