How to Prepare Your Kids for Their Very First Pet

Have your children been begging for a pet? If so, you have a lot to think about. Raising kids around animals is a wonderful way to teach responsibility and empathy, and can even have a positive effect on self-esteem and cognitive development. Not to mention that having a furry friend in your home will have beneficial health effects by reducing stress and promoting a greater sense of wellbeing among all of your family members. At the same time, adopting a pet is a major decision, especially if your children will be the primary caregivers. Here are some essential ways to get your kids ready for their first pet.

Teaching Your Kids About Pet Care

It’s important that your children know how to properly care for their pet ahead of time. If your kids are getting a dog, for example, you’ll want to teach them about pet nutrition and the importance of choosing quality dog food. Dogs need protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to stay happy and healthy. This is why VCA Hospitals recommends feeding your dog the highest-quality food that you can afford, ensuring they get all the nutrients they need in the most digestible form possible. Your children will also need to become familiar with certain aspects of dog training, such as obedience commands and crate training. If you’re going to implement the latter, make sure to provide your dog with a crate that can withstand wear and tear and gives your pet plenty of space to stand and move around.

Assessing Your Children’s Readiness for a Pet

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. Make sure your kids know what’s involved in pet ownership and are committed to providing the level of lifelong care their new animal will need. Since it’s important to interact with pets calmly, ensure that your kids are patient and respectful. According to Dog Notebook, your children should be good at following directions, taking care of themselves, and completing their current responsibilities—such as household chores—without being reminded. They should also be able to share their space and attention from mom and dad—bringing a dog home can feel like adding another child to the family! Importantly, make sure your child is comfortable around animals. Visit a shelter or spend time with a friend’s pet before deciding to bring one home.

Picking the Perfect Pet

Choosing the right pet for your child should be a family decision. Consider your lifestyle, financial situation, space, and level of experience as pet owners when weighing your options. Dogs and cats are two of the most popular American pets, but many other animal types might fit into your family well — such as guinea pigs, rats, and hamsters. You could even start your children off with a few fish to see how they handle the responsibility!

Dogs tend to be some of the best pets for children because they’re loyal, loving, and easy to train. Certain dog breeds exhibit traits and personalities that mesh well with children. For example, the cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a happy and calm lap dog that makes for a wonderful family companion. Similarly, golden retrievers are well-known for being gentle and caring, making them an optimal breed for young, first-time pet owners. If your family lives in a smaller space, consider an adorable dog fit for small yards, like a Yorkshire terrier or Maltese.

Remember, caring for a pet is a family matter. Make sure your children’s pet choice is a good fit for the rest of the family, too, and that everyone in your household is willing to chip into the care responsibilities. With the right planning and careful preparations, your family pet is sure to bring endless joy and fulfillment into the lives of you and your children.