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How to Introduce Your New Pet to Your Children

By Dr. Larry
Updated: 2010-02-09 11:45 PM 1956 Views    Category: - New Pet Owner's Guide
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One thing about pet owning is that is should be easy. I frequently encounter people who want to make owning a pet a difficult science rather than an art. Remember when you had your first child? You read every book and were scared to death. By the time the third or fourth one came along, you laughed about how you acted with the first one. It all seemed so easy now. It's a similar situation with pets.

Getting a new pet should not be made complicated. There are only a few things you need to learn, especially with a puppy or new dog: how to feed them, how to housebreak them, simple training techniques and basic medical care. One of the first questions people ask is "How do I introduce my family, especially the children, to a new pet?"

The easiest way to do this is to make your kids a part of the decision-making process of what pet to get. The image of a smiling child lifting a new puppy out of a cardboard box huddled near the Christmas tree is really just a warm and fuzzy advertisement. Getting a new pet should be a well thought out, thoroughly discussed issue with the whole family contributing.

First, you need to decide what type of a pet to get; a dog, cat or "other". This is really a decision more for the parents than the children. Remember, no matter how committed your children may be, you as the parent are ultimately responsible for the care of the pet and as time goes on, more of the work naturally falls to the parents. When clients ask me "What kind of pet should I get for my kids?" I always respond with "What kind of pet do YOU want, because ultimately the pet is yours, not your kids." If you do not want a pet, please don't get one for your kids. They are only kids, with lots of other interests and distractions.

Once you have decided what type of pet you want, get the kids involved in the process of picking out the pet. Have them go with you, preferably to the pound or shelter (you know how I feel about adopting homeless pets), or to the breeder or pet store. Let them interact with the animals and see how the dog or cat responds to them. It is also good for them to see the animals that are left behind, so they get a feeling of how important they will be to the new pet when that animal leaves their siblings. In essence, you and your kids now become that pet's entire world, and I think seeing the mother and siblings gives the children more of a sense of the huge responsibility they have to their new family member.

I then think it is good for the family to take a step back, either by going out to lunch or home for the day and discussing the potential new pet. Don't do anything on impulse or first impression. Take a breath, talk about that particular pet and the job ahead, gauge your child's response and be sure they are committed to the job ahead. This gives them a real sense of duty and commitment (the trick is to make this last more than a week). If they have a hand in the decision, hopefully they will have better follow-through in the weeks and months ahead.

So introducing your children to the new pet is something you should never do after the fact. Make them an intimate part of the decision-making process and you will have much greater chance of the new family member and your children becoming friends f or life.


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