Pet ownership is a serious undertaking that requires a lot of thought.  After all, being solely accountable for the health and well-being of another living creature is a huge responsibility.  Of course, every parent already knows plenty about caring for a dependent, having had children.  So how do you know when your kids are ready to shoulder such a burden?  Many children are enchanted by the prospect of a pet.  And who wouldn’t be?  Pets are furry little critters that love you unconditionally, are always happy to see you, and provide years of companionship.  Plus they’re really cute, which kids and adults alike are fairly susceptible to.  They also require a lot of care.  However, this could be an excellent opportunity for you to teach your children some life lessons about hard work, respect, and responsible behavior, as long as you realize that you’re going to have to make a time commitment, as well.

Children are always eager to learn something new, but they can quickly become bored with repetition.  And pet care could fall into the latter category over time.  Pets have to be fed every day.  They need grooming, training, exercise, and attention.  Most kids have a limited attention span for these types of tasks and it can be difficult to express to them the consequences if they forget to feed the dog in their rush to get ready for school or if they would rather watch TV than take him for a walk.  For this reason, it’s good to test your child’s readiness with a starter pet.  Yes, if you’re not sure your child is up to the challenge, it may be time to invest in a fish tank.

Now, nobody wants to advocate killing a fish, and if you’re lucky, that little swimmer will live into old age.  But more likely than not, it won’t be long before you find it floating at the top of the tank.  This can be a valuable lesson for kids who want pets but aren’t willing to pull their weight.  A fish in the toilet is not the end of the world, and it can serve as an example of what happens when animals are mistreated.  Not only that, but it is not a very expensive lesson, and it’s a heck of a lot better than a sick dog or cat.

If your child does well with the starter pet, then you can consider an upgrade to a dog, cat, turtle, parakeet, or whatever other domesticated animal they have in mind.  In truth, even if your child is serious about feeding, walking, and training a dog, there are a lot of areas you will have to help with (buying food and toys, trips to the vet, grooming, etc.).  But in the long run, a pet will no doubt become more than a teaching tool for your kids.  Pets grow into beloved members of the family, and that, more than anything, will give your kids incentive to treat them well and see that all of their needs are met.

Jennifer Kardish writes for Pitbulls where you can find information on training, health, diet, and food for the popular and often misunderstood breed.

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