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Bringing a Pet into Your Childís Life, Plus Week in Review

Dear Elizabeth
What should I consider before deciding whether to bring a pet into our home?
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Pet ownership can teach kids about empathy, compassion and respect for all living beings.
  • Pets require responsibility, so make sure your family can fulfill that commitment before bringing home a pet.
  • Dogs and cats might be easier for very young children to physically handle, rather than smaller caged animals, such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs.
  • Demonstrate the importance of caring for the animal, as well as the importance of respecting the animalís boundaries.
Week in Review
Donít forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Melanie Wagner
Melanie Wagner
Director of SPCA
As the parent of a young child, youíve probably been asked for a new pet many times. But pet ownership is a serious responsibility.

Consider the Pros and Cons Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets in their lives have higher levels of empathy, compassion and respect for all living beings. Studies have also shown that children with behavioral problems or tendencies towards violence as they get older have not had exposure and positive exposure to animals as a child. So a child growing up with an animal in the home is incredibly crucial to positive developments. Animals require a lot of work. They're a lot of responsibility and they take a huge commitment. So teaching our children that at a very young age, I think is another crucial component to their development.

Pets for Children Under the Age of 5 Dogs and cats are pretty common household pets and are definitely better for small children than caged animals, such as guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, which can sometimes be a little too small for children to be able to handle. For example, if you bring home a hamster, the child may want to hug it. Tactile things are important to children under the age of 5. If they are holding a hamster, they could squeeze too hard. Rabbits don't like being picked up, so having a rabbit that children want to pick up and hug and squeeze might not be a good idea.

Dogs and cats are a lot easier for children to handle. That being said, I think it's really important that parents understand what kind of pet they're bringing into their home. If you are going to bring home a pet, such as a cat or a dog, you need to really teach your kids the proper way to be around animals. You need to demonstrate the proper ways to pet and hold the animal, and discuss the importance of feeding, walking and caring for the pet, as well as the importance of respecting privacy and boundaries.

Animal Behaviors There are behaviors in animals that are a sign that maybe a child shouldn't touch the animal a certain way. Print out pictures or go on the internet or use books and sit with your child so you can explain animal behaviors. For instance, if a dog has his tail up, the ears are pointed and heís showing his teeth in an aggressive manner, then you need to explain to a young child not to approach that dog. You never know if a child may misunderstand an aggressive dog showing teeth as a smile, so discuss animal signs and behaviors and the importance of respecting animalsí boundaries.

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Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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