June 29, 2022

6 Easy Steps to Teaching Kids Responsibility Through A Pet

Taking on the responsibility of caring for a pet is one of the greatest ways to help your child learn responsibility. Here are 6 easy steps to follow!

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There are a lot of reasons why your kid might beg you to get a dog, cat, or fish. They love animals, they want to be like their friends who have pets, they think it would be fun. But there's also one important reason that no child is likely to mention: pet ownership can teach your kid responsibility. 

Benefits of Owning a pet

There are many benefits of owning a pet. Owning a pet doesn't just mean getting the privilege of having a furry little friend around the house all the time. It means that kids have to learn how to take care of another living creature. And when they get their first pet, they'll need to learn how to feed it, bathe it, take it for walks, and clean up after it. But there's more to it than just cleaning up after your dog: owning an animal teaches kids how to empathize with others. It teaches them how to recognize when an animal is sad or hurt and needs comforting or medical attention. A good relationship with a pet can also help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy.

Taking on the responsibility of caring for a pet is one of the greatest ways to help your child learn responsibility. Here are 6 easy steps to follow when doing so.

Six easy steps to teach your kids to take of pets

Start them young.

The first step to teaching children to care for pets is to introduce them to animals early. If your kid is widely uncomfortable, frightened or nervous around animals, pet ownership may not be a good idea for the time being.

If you think your child is ready for the responsibility of owning a pet, make sure they understand what it means before purchasing or adopting a pet. For example, as long as another family member is willing to pitch in with the regular care, children can learn about sharing the responsibilities of ownership fairly easily. This way kids can help take care of pets without feeling overwhelmed by doing all of the work on their own.

Get a pet that's easy to care for.

Start with a pet that everyone in the family can keep an eye on and take care of together. Small pets like guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters are generally easier to look after. Remember that even small pets need lots of care, so be prepared to set aside time for daily chores like cleaning the cage, grooming or feeding your pet.

If you want a dog or cat – which requires much more commitment – think about whether you really have enough time in your day to look after your new friend. Don't forget, you'll also have to walk them once every day (unless they're indoor cats of course).

Make sure you know how long each type of pet will live. Some animals, like chinchillas and turtles can live for 20 years!

Share ownership.

You can do this by assigning one of your kids as the owner for each pet. As the owner, he or she has the authority to make decisions about the pet, such as when it should go for a walk or what treats it gets. 

To help with shared ownership, create a chore chart that assigns daily and weekly responsibilities for each child. This helps ensure that no one person has all the responsibility (and all the fun) while other members of your family get off scot-free. 

If you don't have time to create a chart, I've made a printable pet responsibility chart for you to download. Fill in your pet and its caretaker's information, and add each pet care task on the left-hand side. As each chore is completed, have your kid check it off in the box. Click here to download.

Give them age-appropriate responsibilities.

To keep children engaged in the pet care-giving experience, it's important to give them age-appropriate responsibilities. A child who is too young will become frustrated if assigned tasks that are too difficult or time-consuming, while an older child will quickly get bored with simple chores.

For younger children, start with the basics: Feeding and watering the pet daily, grooming (brushing), walking a dog, bed-making for small animals that spend most of their time in cages. If your pet sleeps outside or they prefer to stay outdoors during most of the day, teach them how to wash out water and food bowls regularly and refill with fresh water and dry food. 

As they grow older, you can gradually increase their level of responsibility—for example, taking over full house training for puppies or kittens instead of giving only occasional treats for good behavior, or administering medications when necessary. 

Here is a list of tasks for kids to help. Download the checklist here.

Give them the tools they need to succeed.

Make sure you provide your child with the tools they need to succeed. For example, if you are giving them a kitten or puppy, make sure they have food and water dishes, toys, grooming tools, and a leash or harness if they go outside. Here are some strategies to help foster your child's development of caretaking skills:

  • Sit down with your kid and make a list of the responsibilities that will be expected of them when it comes to taking care of their pet. Explain to them their age-appropriate duties and let them be part of the decision-making process.
  • Provide a visual reminder by using a pet chore chart. Sit down with your child at the beginning of each week and talk about what tasks need doing that week. Then put those onto the chart so they can see which days certain things need to be done on. Have your child check off the box when each task is completed that day/week so you both know it was done. 
  • Practice using the chart and make changes if necessary.—it will help get them accustomed to completing all required duties in order for everyone’s happiness!
  • Don't forget to give your child recognition for taking good care of their pets!

A weekly pet chores chart is a great way to introduce your child to the idea of pet ownership. Kids can use the charts to record what they've done, and you can use them to keep tabs on who's been fed and whether the litter box has been scooped.

Don't just tell them how to do it. Show them!

Remember that kids learn by example. As a parent, you will want to set a good one and make sure that whenever asked you do your share of the work and follow through in an organized manner. It's helpful for parents to guide children through how many times per day an animal should be fed and when they need access to water. It's important that this schedule is followed precisely—if meals are missed or delayed, dogs could get sick and cats could develop urinary tract infections due to improper hydration levels. The same goes for cleaning up after pets: teach your child exactly how often certain areas need cleaned and why that's important. They'll come away knowing not only how to clean but also learning what happens if it isn't done consistently (hint: it involves words like "odor" and "bacteria").

Additionally, parents should also be aware that just because their child helps doesn't mean they will fully understand why it’s important or how it’s done correctly. Involving your children in all aspects of pet care is important, but it is also essential to set limits. Children should be expected to help out, but not to the point that they are overwhelmed or resentful. 

Key Takeaway

Pet ownership is an important life lesson and a long term commitment. There's a lot of responsibility involved, and raising a pet helps children embrace these responsibilities early on in life. Becoming a pet owner can help kids learn to care for something and be a bigger part of the family. The pet responsibility chart is a great tool that helps you communicate with your kids about their responsibilities and track their progress.