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Pets and Kids Can Be a Winning Combination

How to Prepare for Pet Ownership

Article by John and Jill Pelicano and Sheeba Mathew

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

Pets enrich the lives of many children and families. Although it is beneficial to the child to be raised with a pet, safety concerns should always be a determining factor when deciding to get or keep a pet in a family with young children.

Choose wisely. Select the breeds or species that are a good fit for your family, your home and your lifestyle. Important characteristics to consider in selecting a pet are behavior, temperament, excitability and size. Pets should be disease-free and regularly checked by a veterinarian, and family allergies should also be taken into account. Young children should always be supervised during interaction with pets, as animals can be easily harmed or provoked and may attack if hit, poked or grabbed. Children should be taught to play gently with pets and to keep their distance when an animal is eating, sleeping or caring for their young.

Be involved parents. Planning and open discussion are necessary for a family pet to be a positive experience. Younger children can help with pet care but can't be completely responsible. They may only be able to help with a few small tasks such as feeding, cleaning or grooming the pet. For example, your child can join you when walking the dog but certainly shouldn't walk the dog alone. Allow your child to help care for the family pet in small, safe ways and always under adult supervision.

Pets are beneficial. Positive relationships with pets can encourage children to love and trust others. Bonding with a pet helps young children to develop nonverbal communication, compassion and empathy. Caring for pets teaches children responsibility. Both children and animals need exercise, and pets are great playmates and a fun way to add physical activity into a child's day.