Q: When will my child be ready to take care of a pet?
A: Unless you already have a menagerie, at some point almost every parent hears the dreaded words: "Mom, can we get a dog?" While putting your child in charge of another living creature will instill a sense of duty, make sure the level of care you expect is age-appropriate. A 4-year-old can certainly change water or scoop food into a bowl, but most kids aren't responsible enough to walk the pooch alone until around age 10. And no matter how much your child -- even a tween or teen -- promises to look after "her" pet, remember that the animal is ultimately your responsibility. --Deborah Skolnik
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the April 2005 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009