How to Prepare Your Kids for Their First Pet

November 24, 2023

by cora gold, guest contributor

Part of adding a pet to your family is preparing your kid for a new journey filled with fun, lessons, responsibilities, and challenges. Before you welcome a new companion into your home, consider taking the steps below to educate your little one about raising a pet properly.

1. Involve Your Child When Choosing a Pet

Asking your child what pet they want to raise can help them develop a sense of responsibility. When you make them a part of the decision-making process, they are more likely to show a willingness to take care of the pet.

As a parent, you should know which pet best fits your lifestyle. For instance, if you live in a small apartment, you might want to consider smaller, calmer pets that can quickly adapt to the environment and have low exercise requirements.

2. Supervise the Interaction Between the Pet and Your Child

It’s essential to guide small children during their first interactions with the pet. As a parent, you should teach your child how to approach and hold the dog properly. Proper body language is something you can learn together. 

Stay alert to the common behaviors of your chosen pet. For instance, common cat play sometimes involves scratching and biting.

Puppies can also play rough, consisting of biting, growling, and chasing. Inform your children that puppies take time to learn good behavior over time through proper training. Remind your child of the difference in size between themselves and their pet and what that means for their interactions with the animal. 

When bringing your pet home for the first time, give it enough time to adjust. Remind your child that the pet needs time and space to adapt to its new environment. Patience also helps your kid behave accordingly since overexcitement over the new pet might cause the animal discomfort.

3. Have Training Sessions

Not all pets require training, but if you’re taking care of a dog or cat, you will need to set aside time to teach them new tricks and basic commands. Involve your child when teaching your new family pet, in order for them to learn skills such as communication and patience. Take this as your child’s opportunity to understand how their actions impact the animal.

4. Assign Pet Care Activities

Caring for a pet can be fun, but it entails a lot of responsibilities and challenges. It’s important to involve your children in these responsibilities so they understand their pet is not just another toy. 

Shedding, cleaning up poop and smelly litter boxes are some of the many realities of owning a pet, which is why it’s essential to keep the house clean for everyone’s health and safety. For instance, you should clean your cat’s litter box twice daily to prevent odor from staying too long indoors.  

Assign simple pet care tasks to your kids so they share in this responsibility. Depending on your kids’ ages, you can have them be in charge of cleaning the litter box, going for walks, brushing or picking up toys. Just be sure to demonstrate how to do the tasks first, especially if it’s their first time interacting with an animal. 

5. Teach About Pet Safety 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are more than 17,800 dog bites reported each year and unfortunately, most victims are under the age of 2.

Bite accidents can happen when a child unintentionally frightens or harms a pet, which may cause the latter to react defensively. Teaching your child to play safely with the animal helps prevent unfortunate incidents. The other thing you need to teach your child is how to understand body language and signals so that they know when a pet is scared or anxious.

6. Take Care of the Pet Together 

Raising a pet with your child offers opportunities for learning and bonding moments. They will learn more about shared responsibility if you do the work with them rather than giving instructions. For instance, if you want your child to know how to fill up food bowls with the proper amount of kibble, do it with them. Soon enough, you’ll discover they can handle it independently.

Is Your Kid Now Ready for Their First Pet?

A pet is more than a mere addition to your home — it’s a responsibility you and your child should share, it is an adding to your family. With these tips, you can prepare your child for the responsibilities that come with taking care of another living being.

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