Choosing your child's first pet, (c) 2009-2016 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
Friends of ours are trying to decide how to choose their son’s first pet. Asking for advice is a good thing; careful and informed decision making will ensure that all animals, human and non-human, end up happy in the new arrangement. When it comes to your child’s first pet consider carefully, this addition to your family is meant to be a permanent one.
Caring for a new pet means additional responsibility not just for your child but for every family member. All those promises of pet care your child may be bargaining with translate to what you have to be willing to do when the novelty wears off. So, first consider cleaning cages or tanks or habitats or changing bedding or litter boxes or lots and lots of dog walking. Adding a pet to your current living situation will more than change your family dynamic, you are also adding another living being with needs, wants and feelings to your home.
Remember that reinforcing and developing empathy for this non-human animal is part of what you are teaching your child when you bring a new pet into your home. Children need to be taught humane interactions with animals. Proper handling and respect for other living beings is first demonstrated by your actions and then your words. If you have grown up with a pet think about what was good about having that animal around and then try and think what would have made it better for your pet. Trying the perspective from the animal point of view is the first part of empathizing with your pet.
Depending on the species, the care required will vary. Every animal has a unique diet and environments that need to be kept clean. Cats are famous for their finicky nature and that includes their surroundings (tips on keeping that litter box clean). A new puppy means walks every two hours to teach housebreaking (and tips on housebreaking) and allow the infant dog the opportunity to relieve itself appropriately, an adult dog needs to be walked a minimum of three times a day, reptiles need heat lamps on for daily intervals, fish require the appropriate size tank along with water and plants maintained properly, the list of requirements continues depending on the animal. Here are some other guidelines to consider:
-Educate yourself about the pet you are thinking about before acquiring them. Thinking about a dog, a cat, a hamster or a gecko? Read up on specific behavior and care by visiting your local library, requesting material from your local shelter or perusing the animalbehaviorist.us website.
-Try not to get overly hooked on a breed or type of pet. Your lifestyle and child's age should be the determining factor rather than what is the most in vogue pet. Plus, never underestimate chemistry, meeting the right pet is personal, after all these animals are individuals too.
-Consider very carefully time constraints. Sometimes the best decisions are the ones where we don't make a choice rather than make the wrong choice. For instance, parrots and dogs require probably the most human interaction of any companion animal. Does your lifestyle permit all the time a parrot requires or all the walking, playing and socializing a dog requires to be a happy member of your family?
-When it comes to dogs, do consider adopting an older puppy or dog (dogs remain puppies until their second year). Older puppies and dogs are usually already housebroken (a major, major factor) and their personalities have emerged. All dogs, puppies or not require group training classes for proper socialization and to enable proper human canine (and canine to canine) communication. It is so very important to learn how to work with your dog and not depend on aversive aids, for instance, those head halters that are all the rage around town control your dog through inhibition, discomfort and pain when they are yanked against--so much kinder to learn how to understand and control your dog with positive training.
-Remember that puppies and kittens are infants and as such require the highest level of care and have the least control over bodily functions-hence the practice of walking a puppy every two hours for house training.
-Cats require far less maintenance than dogs do and are wonderful pets with their own distinct personalities. Where dog and human companionship may frequently look like the dog is doing its best to be a people pleaser, with cats, the bond is more on the same level, at least as far as the cat is concerned. This does not mean they do not need their human guardians-studies suggest that time with people helps to make up for the loss of outside activities or social interaction with other cats. Developing a relationship with your cat is just as important as developing a relationship with your dog. Kittens require frequent, gentle handling to become well socialized and careful petting and grooming for any new feline will cement a new friendship (here are some tips for making that cat a happy one).
-Please do visit your local shelter or humane society when selecting your pet. Pets at shelters have been relinquished for mostly all the wrong reasons. Your stopping at the shelter lessens the demand on backyard breeders and puppy mills, saves lives and gives a good pet a home.
Again, each and every species is a unique one, with needs and benefits to consider. With time and careful consideration you can make the right choice. Good Luck!
More questions, need specific information? Contact us.
(c) 2009-2016 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Remember that reinforcing and developing empathy for this non-human animal is part of what you are teaching your child when you bring a new pet into your home."
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
Engage the author to speak on the conservation status of an ecosystem, a species or humane control (more).
Like us on Facebook!