I’ve had pets since I was born and consequently, so have my kids. Yet many parents who don’t yet have pets are faced with the question of when to introduce a pet, particularly a dog, into the household. Most want to know what is the optimal age for a child to get his/her first pet.
Dr. Marty Becker over at VetStreet, cautions parents to remember that no matter how much you prepare your older child for a pet and give him chores surrounding pet duty, parents must remember that the responsibility is ultimately on them. It’s a parent’s job to make sure the dog is cared for, and along the way teach their child how to be responsible for their own pet.
That being said, Dr. Becker suggests that around age 8 or third grade is a good starting point when kids are mature enough to handle certain tasks and carry out responsibility. Eight-year-olds can feed a cat or a dog, supply clean water everyday, and possibly even walk their dog with supervision, depending on the breed.
Of course, breed choice is a big consideration when choosing a dog. If you have a newborn or toddler and get a very big, active dog, your child might get knocked over. Research dog breeds and select those that love children and enjoy family life. (See the best small dogs breeds and the greatest large dog breeds.)
With a little preparation, making the decision to bring a pet into your family can be one of the best things you ever do. There is nothing like enjoying the companionship and unconditional love of a dog as a child. It is likely the best gift you can give a child.
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