Child’s First Pet Guide
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When you’re young and desperately want a pet, the first thing a parent will say is how great of a responsibility it is to take care of one, that it isn’t easy work. It’s true! I was fifteen when my dad and I drove two hours to pick up my little corgi puppy, Mickey. As much as I adored him, within two weeks I was burnt out from puppy training. I felt like I had to keep my eye on him every second I had, or else he would get into trouble. Luckily, my dad helped me out a bit when it got really hard and now he is a perfectly trained, sweet dog. If your child is begging you for a pet, yet you feel hesitant to give them the responsibility, here are some tips to make it easier for them to manage their new friend!
Do Research and Establish Rules
Before you even introduce your child to a pet, be willing to teach them about different types of pets and what each pet’s requirements are. Some “easier” pets are animals such as: betta fish, small-medium sized dogs, and cats (as they are a bit more independent than dogs). If you have a specific animal in mind, it will make it easier to know ways to train them and properly take care of them. This will erase the overwhelming feeling of getting a pet and not knowing what to do! With animals like cats and dogs, different breeds may require different care. Some breeds may be more skittish, talkative, or fluffy. It also can depend where you get your furry friend. Rescue and shelter animals often have dealt with trauma and need an owner that is willing to be patient with them. Research will also help you, the parent, with knowing how to help and the cost of the pet and their needs! Being clear with your child about your boundaries with the pet is important in ensuring they remain responsible. When I got a dog, my dad made it clear to not let him on the couch, and that I would have to vacuum and sweep the floors once a week to help upkeep the cleanliness of the house. I agreed, and having those rules allowed me to be responsible with my dog, as well as respecting my father and our household rules.
With having a pet, setting a routine and sticking to it is the most important part of training. This will prevent spontaneous accidents or accidentally forgetting to feed them. It will also make it easier for your pet when they know what to expect and when to expect it. For example, make sure your kid is willing to feed their pet at certain times every day, and keep up with it so they do not forget or confuse the pet when it comes time for food. This can be the same with potty breaks, treats, or even play time. Like humans, animals thrive off of a routine and it is necessary to give our pets routines as they begin to adapt in a new household.
Puppies and kittens are just like kids, they are learning and are bound to make mistakes. Even grown up pets make mistakes. However, treating them with patience while disciplining them is important to establish a good relationship with your pet. If animals get scared, they will start to fear their owner and other humans, and act sporadically out of fear. You do not want your pet to fear you or your child, because it can cause more damage than good. While stern voices can be necessary in disciplining your pet, so they know what they did is wrong, make sure your child has the patience to handle when the pet does not listen or mess up. This will also help your child gain patience, which is a useful skill to have in many areas, especially while growing up.
Pets ARE a Responsibility
It is important to stress that taking care of a pet is not a quick activity or hobby, and it isn’t one to neglect. Having a pet means introducing something to the family, and taking care of a living thing that has needs and feelings. The pet is bound to get sick, have injuries, need baths, need love, care, food, water, and time. It is not easy, but introducing a pet to your child will allow them to grow more responsible as they learn how to take care of all those duties. If your child cannot take care of the pet, and you won’t be able to help, do not go through buying a pet if it will end up being neglected or given away. In extreme circumstances, giving away your pet is understandable depending on their needs and your needs. Yet a lot of people will buy a pet not realizing the time commitment they are. Make sure the pet will be a part of the family, and that it will be provided for.
Having a pet is something so exciting, special, and a wonderful addition to someone’s life. However, they have plenty of needs and require proper care. Having a dog as a teenager taught me more responsibility and gave me more insight on how to take care of something other than myself. My patience increased as well as my happiness from gaining a new best friend! Having the benefit of the doubt with your child and their capabilities to take care of a pet will help encourage them to take on this responsibility.