The Star-Herald

Kids and common sense

If you’re a parent and your child is old enough to talk, chances are you’ve heard the phrase, “Can we get a (cat? dog? hamster?) Please, please, I promise to take care of it.”  To say that you feel pressure to ‘give in’ would be an understatement.

In general, this request inspires a sense of impending doom. No matter what kind of pet you have, it’s going to be a lot of work. And, no matter how much your child tries to convince you that they’ll do everything, you’ll have to shoulder a certain amount of responsibility. Pet ownership means adoption fees, vet bills, food, toys, grooming, cleanup — and who knows what else. It’s not something to take lightly.

But the right child paired with the right pet can actually mean great things for everybody. Taking on the care of an animal can teach your child how to be responsible and aware of the needs of others. You might say that a pet is a live-in nature lesson. The bond that is shared with a pet can provide immeasurable fulfillment for everyone in your family, not just your child.

If the decision is made to bring a new furry creature into your home, it is so important to take the time to teach your children to respect that animal’s space so they feel safe and can develop a loving, trusting and lifelong friendship.

Here are a few commonsense tips for helping kids understand pets — especially if that new pet is a dog.

Avoid bothering dogs when they are eating. Depending on their previous situation, there could have been competitions with litter mates when it came to food. 

Avoid taking a dog’s bones or toys.  Also avoid putting your face right up to a dog’s face. This falls under “giving your new pet its space.” Until you know your new pet’s temperament, allowing time for both family and pet to get comfortable around each other is super important.    

Most pets love to sleep. Remember to avoid bothering animals when they are resting.

Never attempt grabbing your pet’s tail, ears or any other part of a dog. The last thing you want is for your pet to show aggression when your child might think he is just playing. 

One mistake that adults make, thinking it’s cute, is letting kids climb onto their dog, especially for pictures. This is extremely dangerous. And definitely avoid hugging, because most dogs do not love it.

Remember that hollering and shouting don’t help any situation. Using a low, soothing voice instead will help to keep both your pet and child calm. It’s simply common sense.

Please check out the Central Aroostook Humane Society if you are looking for a new furry family member.  Please be responsible and remember to spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board for the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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