You’ve probably heard it – “Mooooom, can we get a puppy?” If you’re wondering how to tell if your child is ready for a pet there are some signs to watch for. There is no stronger friendship than between a boy and his dog, or a girl and her guinea pig (or any animal for that matter). Pets play a wonderful role in the life of a child and are wonderful additions to the family. Taking care of a pet encourages responsibility, it helps them develop empathy and compassion and is a great stepping stone to more intimate relationships later in life. So how can you tell if your child is ready to be pet parent?

How to Tell if Your Child is Ready for a Pet

Age Appropriate Responsibility – Depending on the age of your child there are certain responsibilities necessary for pet parenting. Brushing, feeding and walking are the major responsibilities, is your child ready to manage those things? Can your little one be counted on to feed and provide clean water every day? As a parent you’ll guide and remind them of the chores necessary to ensure a healthy pet, but the goal is for the child to take on most of the responsibilities.

Comfortable around Animals – If your child is afraid of animals, getting a pet will not necessarily quell those fears. If you have a fearful child and introduce a pet to the family let both the child and the new pet take their time getting to know one another. It’s more important than ever to supervise the new pet around fearful children. The child may become frightened and drop the new animal. Only when the child feels comfortable around the new family member should they be left alone with the pet.

Respect for Animals – Do your kids understand that animals are living beings with feelings and that they can become frightened easily? If they do, that’s a great sign they are ready to interact daily with a new pet. It’s important that the little one understand that tugging and pulling on a pet is not an appropriate way to handle pets.

Not a Passing Fad – It’s important that your child understand that having a pet is a long term commitment. They must be in it for the long haul. Be sure they understand that puppies turn into adult dogs and kittens into cats, that they won’t be that cute forever. If it’s not a whim and your child can see things through, they should make great pet parents.

Does the Pet Fit the Family – Getting the right pet for the family is key to a healthy and happy pet relationship. A dog is going to be different pet experience than a goldfish so make sure everyone has a say in the kind of pet that joins the family.

Bringing a pet into the family is a wonderful experience for all involved and being a pet parent is a great way to teach kids about commitment and responsibility and of course it is the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Don’t forget, there are thousands of animals who need homes at local shelters.