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Animals are wonderful additions to any family. They can be lovable, compassionate creatures that can teach your children many valuable, life-long lessons. August 26 is National Dog Day. This day is designed to appreciate dogs and all they do and add to a family. However, not all families, particularly children, are ready for the responsibility of a dog or other type of family pet. Here are several ways you can decide if your children are ready for an animal.

Determined and responsible.

Caring for an animal takes a lot of work. A dog, for example, requires regular baths, haircuts and shots. They must be taken on daily walks and their bowel movements must be picked up. If your children want a pet, consider how well they will take care of the pet. Do they have the determination to take the dog for a walk on a windy or cold day? Will they give up some of their free time to give the dog a bath?

Many children want a pet but don’t realize the responsibility and hard work they require. Look at the different areas in your children’s life. Do your children stick to something for a long period of time? When times get tough, will they give up and leave you with all of the work? Having a family pet is an excellent way to teach your children responsibility. However, remember that your family pet is a living animal. If your children are not determined and responsible, you will be left with all of the dirty work.

Organized and time-efficient.

When deciding if your children are ready for a family pet, many parents overlook their children’s organization and time-efficiency habits. Animals must be taken care of every day. Many animals, such as dogs, must be walked, fed and brushed on a daily basis. You can make your experience with a pet much better if your children are efficient with their time and willing to accomplish their chores without much fuss. It will be tragic if the needs of the dog are an afterthought. If your children are not organized, especially with their time, you will be constantly nagging your children to take care of the pet, or you will end up doing it yourself.

Compassionate and gentle behavior

Family pets require gentleness, loyalty and compassion. You will know if your children are ready for a family pet if they demonstrate these behaviors. If they haven’t mastered these behaviors, they could treat your family pet poorly, and the animal may not be calm and gentle in return.

Also, spend time around different animals before you choose a family pet. Use this opportunity to see how your children will react to the animal and if they will be caring and loving to an animal in your home. Prepare yourself for a family pet by pet sitting for a friend or neighbor’s animal and see how well your children handle the situation.

Having a family pet can be a wonderful and educational experience. However, if your children aren’t ready, it can be a frustrating experience for you, a traumatic experience for the animal and a loss for your children. Before you choose a pet to add to your family, make sure you and your children are ready for the upcoming responsibility and work.



Courtnie Erickson is a Utah State University graduate and a technology guru.
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