Kids love pets, and studies show that owning a pet creates plenty of benefits such as encouraging respect for living things, and even improved academic performance (when a pet is kept in the classroom).
Owning a pet can also foster a sense of responsibility in kids — but only if mum doesn’t end up doing all the work to feed, wash and tidy up after the family pet. Here’s how to hand back the pooper scooper and make your kids responsible for their furry friends.
Pet care tip one: Create a pet feeding and walking roster
Make a schedule detailing who’s walking, feeding and cleaning up after your pet, then write out a roster and pin it to the fridge. It will be more effective if you keep the days and times as regular as possible, so your child can remember what they need to be doing and when. For example, make Sunday afternoons rabbit hutch cleaning time, so it becomes a regular after-lunch weekend chore.
- Try Kidspot’s printable dog care reward chart to form your roster.
- Try Kidspot’s printable cat care reward chart to form your roster.
Pet care tip two: Motivate them
Praise your child every time they undertake a pet-related chore, especially if you don’t even ask them to do it, then add a star to their cat reward chart , dog reward chart or general reward chart. Praise and reward your child immediately after the job has been done – if you use a happy tone of voice, your dog might even show signs of excitement, helping keep your child motivated. Hey, and don’t forget to keep YOURSELF on track by refusing to do the pet tasks yourself because it’s quicker and easier! Remember, you are being a better parent by teaching your child the responsibility of looking after their animal.
Pet care tip three: Involve the kids in dog training
Take your kids to dog training classes. These are not just for puppies – even adult dogs can benefit from training. The dog will get used to youngsters giving commands, and your children will learn more about their pet’s behaviour and how to behave appropriately around them. Some dogs try to assume authority or “pack leadership” over small kids in the family, so teaching your child how to train and command the pet is important.
Pet care tip four: Let your kids pick their pet
A great way to encourage a child’s long-term love for an animal is to let them pick out their new friend. If the child is old enough, they may be able to help choose a cat or dog breed. Even small children can pick a fish, along with some aquarium accessories – then let them know that cleaning the fish bowl is their job, too. Likewise, if you are planning on getting your kids a pet rabbit, guinea pig or mouse. Take your child with you to the pet store to chose their pet and learn about all the care products that come with their new furry friend. The sales person will also give your kids a few care instructions. Remind them to listen carefully to these as they will be carrying them out.
Pet care tip five: Allocate water and feeding duties
Even a 3-year-old child can begin to be responsible for a pet. While they might not be able to fill a bowl with fresh water, they can let you know when the water is dirty. At feeding time, show a young child how to measure food and let them pour the food in the bowl. At around ten years of age, it is entirely age-appropriate for a child to be completely responsible for feeding and watering their pet.
Pet care tip six: Turn dog walking into a game
Encourage kids to take their dog out for a walk by combining sporty games with pooch walking. Running, catching and chasing games in the park will keep both canine and kids more amused than a pavement stroll, while ‘fetch frisbee’ will burn off energy for kids and give your dog extra exercise by jumping in the air.
Pet care tip seven: Teach kids to treat their pet
If your children like cooking, get them to help you make this recipe for dog biscuits and treat the family dog. Showing love for an animal is part of caring for a pet. Your kids will enjoy getting their hands messy, you’ll save money going to the supermarket or pet shop and your dog will absolutely love the biccies.
This article was written by Joanna Bounds.