Kids and Pets: The Basics

Featured Picture Book

PICK A PUP by Marsha Wilson Chall

(Available at your local public library or bookstores, including online stores.)

Gram takes Sam to the shelter to pick a pup. How will Sam know what pup to pick? PICK A PUP is a dictionary of types of puppies for Sam to pick – psychological types, that is. No references are made to breeds, just behaviors – “mostly-sound-asleep,” “teeny-weeny,” “woolly-like-a-sheep,” etc. Tongue-teasing words make it fun to read and fun to hear. In the end, Sam gets his pup, and it becomes easy to see why the picking is easy as can be.

Parenting Thoughts 

First Decision: Dog, Cat, or Other

Dr. Mom:

If you are one of the 4 out of 10 families that add a pet to their family after having children, your first decision is what kind of pet is best for your child and your family. The possibilities are many – dog, cat, bird, hamster, fish, chickens, or if you are in the country the possibilities can go on and on.

36 Sidebar 1

Some of the things to consider in making this choice are:

What type of cleanup is required?

How much space is needed?

What will travelling be like?

What are the costs for health care and food?

How much people-attention will the pet need?

What do you expect to get back from the pet (cuddling, protection, playtime)?

Darling Daughter:  Are they nocturnal? This we figured out the hard way. Hermit crabs are not very fun or exciting unless you happen to be up at 2am. Then they are a bit more interesting but still not a barrel of laughs. Then there is the molting thing . . . GROSS!

Second Decision: Type of Dog, Cat, or Other


People all are different and so are pets. Various breeds and species tend to act differently, and you will want to consider a good fit between how a pet acts and your child’s personality. For example, if you were selecting a dog, which would be a better fit with your child – sleepy, big, small, barky, fast, slow, etc.?

36 Sidebar 2

What a Child Can Learn from a Pet

1.  Responsibility

The most obvious thing a child can learn from having a pet is responsibility. The pet needs to be fed, pottied, kept clean, exercised, protected, and loved. That is a lot of responsibility. It is important that the child take on some of these responsibilities.

2.  Love with no strings attached

Pets show that they like their caregivers. For children, this means a lot of “I like you.” and “I want to be with you.” types of messages. Pets give attention to the child enthusiastically. And, regardless of mistakes the child may make – pulling a tail, forgetting a meal, or showing up late – he can still depend on being accepted by the pet. This is comforting for the child. We call it unconditional love or love with no strings attached.

3.  Independence

Children usually expect to be able to control a pet. They want the pet to do what they want it to do when they want it to do it. They quickly learn that the pet has a mind of its own. This is a good time to talk to children about how thinking for oneself is a good thing – everybody has likes and dislikes. However, both people and pets have to follow house rules. That’s why we train our pets to be quiet and not make messes.

 We have independence covered. It has always been obvious that there’s no telling a hermit crab what to do. LOL

4.  Loss

Having a pet means that your child may have to deal with the loss of that pet at some point. There are many lessons to learn when a pet dies:

  • It’s OK to be sad.
  • Sadness is not forever.
  • People can be sad some of the time and still find things to be happy about at other times.


To Be Continued …

The list of things a child can learn from a pet is worth more thought – not just thinking about pets, but also understanding how responsibility, love, independence and loss are important parts of all of our parenting. Look for more ideas about these in the September 15 blog – “Kids and Pets: More on Responsibility, Love, Independence, and Loss.”


Read All About It

GROWING UP AGAIN, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson, and David Bredehoft


PICK UP YOUR SOCKS, Elizabeth Crary

 Surf the Internet:
  • self-esteem
  • kids and pets
  • selecting a pet
  • feeling faces
  • caring for pets
  • loss of a pet
  • pet training classes
  • animal shelters
  • overindulgence
  • chores
  • unconditional love
  • empathy

What do you think?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.