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8 Tips on Getting a Pet

Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners
Manners & Responsibility: Raising Responsible Pet Owners

Bringing home your child's first pet can be an exciting experience for the whole family. But how do you ensure that your child and your new pet will have a good relationship? Here are some tips on selecting and preparing for your new family member.

1. Keep your child's developmental stage in mind. If this is going to be his pet -- and he agrees to care for it -- choose an animal whose needs can be met by your child. Dogs and cats require daily attention. Fish, turtles, birds, guinea pigs, and hamsters demand minimal care.

2. Consider an animal's temperament. An easygoing pet is usually the best match for children, and a pet's breed can often give a clue to its disposition. Some breeds can have unpredictable temperaments, so research the breed before bringing your pet home. If adopting a dog, consider a retriever or beagle. If adopting a cat, consider American Shorthair, Burmese, and Persian breeds.

3. Take your family's allergies into consideration. Some people are allergic to the skin, hairs, or feathers of some animals. If your child has eczema, hay fever, or asthma, or your family has a strong history of allergic reactions, you should take these factors into consideration when choosing a pet. Ask your pediatrician or a local veterinarian for advice.

4. Buy pets only from reputable breeders and shelters. Almost every type of pet is a potential source of disease that can infect your child. But buying a pet from a reputable breeder or shelter reduces the risk of purchasing an ill or diseased animal and endangering your child and yourself.

Get your child ready for your new family member. Make sure he knows what to expect and how to interact with your pet. If he is going to be involved in caring for your pet, he'll need to know what's required in taking on that responsibility. Here are four tips on getting your child ready:

1. Discuss the needs of the animal. Buy books on pet care and make sure your child is aware of the responsibilities that come with caring for the new arrival.

2. Visit a friend who has a pet. Let your child learn how to interact with the pet and see firsthand what caring for a pet involves.

3. Express the seriousness of the commitment. Make sure that your child won't lose interest in caring for the pet several weeks or months after the family adopts it. Let your child know that you are unwilling to jeopardize the well-being of the pet because of his neglect.

4. Teach your child about pet safety. Make sure he knows the correct and incorrect ways to interact with a pet to prevent injury. Insist that he practice reasonable hygiene around an animal, such as washing his hands after playing with a pet or before eating.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics