For most people, pets are a part of the family. Often, the responsibility of caring for an animal falls on an individual in the household, such as a responsible adult. However, everyone – including children – should participate in caring for a pet’s needs. Teaching a child to feed, walk and groom a pet not only alleviates household burdens for parents, but also imparts responsibility at a young age.
The Importance of Age-Appropriate Pet Responsibilities
Children of nearly any age can help out with the family pet, though the tasks they are capable of completing will vary from young childhood to adolescence. Preschool-age children, for example, will need assistance and oversight doing basic tasks, such as refilling food and water bowls. As children grow, they can complete these tasks on their own, eventually taking on additional responsibilities, such as giving the dog a bath or playing fetch outdoors. By the teen years, a child can walk the dog around the neighborhood or even drive a pet to the groomer or veterinary office.
By teaching your child to help care for the family pet, he or she will learn about commitment, accountability, and general empathy for animals that depend on their owners for their well-being. Children who learn to care for animals from a young age will feel more invested in the family pet and are more likely to understand their needs as a living, breathing being with physical and emotional needs. Furthermore, they are more likely to develop strong values and habits regarding the care of future pets as they mature and eventually own their own pets as adults.
Tips for Successful Child Pet Responsibility
Parents can improve the chances that their children will enjoy caring for pets by presenting tasks as privileges, rather than chores or obligations. If a child finds a task particularly unpleasant, such as removing waste from the backyard, offer to rotate those duties so that everyone in the household participates evenly.
Do your kids help share in the responsibility of caring for your family pet?