Introducing a new member to the family is always a big decision, especially when the new member is a four-legged ball of love. But how do you know if your kids are ready for the responsibilities that come with having a pet, be that a cat, dog, or even a hamster? Is there a best age to get a pet? I've been weighing these questions since my almost 2-year-old daughter started declaring, "I want a doggy!" It's hard to ignore her heart-melting pleas, but I don't know if now is the right time to add a dog into the mix.
In order to make an informed pet decision, I decided to turn to the experts. "I don't believe there is a magic age when it comes to getting your child a pet," Amy Robinson, a Certified Dog Training expert, in tells She Knows. Instead, Robinson claims it's best to ask yourself a few key questions before ultimately deciding whether or not to bring a pet into the fold. For example, is your child a self-starter, and can get up for school and getting dressed without prodding? Does your child gravitate toward the outdoors and is interested in nature — which would be important if getting a dog — and does your child shows compassion for living things, even bugs? Answering these questions are important, and can help you gauge whether or not your child is ready for a furry friend.
Another important thing to consider is who, ultimately, will be responsible for the pet, because let's be honest: even the most responsible kid is going to flake sometimes when it comes to pet care. "The biggest mistake families make is thinking their child or adolescent will help with the dog responsibilities. This won't happen nine out of 10 times," explained Russell Hartstein, CEO of Fun Paw Care, in a previous Romper interview.
But even though an adult in the house will need to assume responsibility for the pet, that doesn't mean that kids can't get in on the action. "It is important to remember that parents are ultimately responsible for the care of the dog, but age appropriate tasks can be assigned," advised the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT).
If you feel comfortable bearing the brunt of the pet care, and you feel ready to welcome a pet into the home, it's time to get excited about bringing home a little fur ball! There are some incredibly beneficial aspects to having a pet in the home, behind just upping the cuteness quotient. "Children can learn great life skills such as compassion, responsibility, negotiation and patience by helping to care for a pet," according to APDT.
Once the pet is officially part of your family, there are also ways to help ensure that your child, especially if they are toddler age, lives in harmony with their new four-legged sibling. "As your child develops, teach him to respect your dog’s body, safe zones and belongings. Always supervise interactions so that you can guide your child as he learns to communicate and play with your dog appropriately. Playing an active role in the development of a relationship between your child and your dog will benefit everyone," explained the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
With the holidays quickly approaching, now could be the year when your kiddos get that red-bow-adorned puppy or kitty they've always dreamed of! Just make sure you assess the situation before welcoming at pup or cat into your home.