14 May 2019
Furry Friends: Choosing The Right Pet For Children
Owning a pet is an excellent way to bring young children out of their shell and help them gain independence as they grow up.
Maybe you have fond memories of having pets when you were a child and now you want the same experience for your children. However, there are a number of things to consider when choosing a pet for your little one.
You may be pining after a puppy for the kids to play with and take for walks but realistically, will a dog fit in and around your lifestyle? Dogs are incredibly loyal and affectionate animals so that sentiment must be reciprocated for a healthy bond.
Dogs are the most popular pet in the UK and there is a breed that will suit most families. For example, if you live in a small apartment with little to no outdoor space, a smaller breed like a Bichon Frise, Boston Terrier or a Dachshund. If you have kids and a bigger house with lots of outdoor space, the perfect breed for you would be something like a Golden Retriever, Spaniel or an Irish Setter.
Dogs need persistent training and regular exercise and are especially high maintenance when they’re a puppy so it’s important that you have enough space and time to do so. If you work full time and aren’t able to pop home on your lunch break to let your dog out for a wee, you may not be in the right place for one yet. However, they are the perfect pet for adults who work from home and love spending time outside on a regular, daily basis.
If your heart is well and truly set on getting a dog for your children, you can look into a local doggy day care or dog walking service. There are plenty around but this can be quite costly over time. There are also organisations such as Borrow My Doggy which can help you find people you can trust to look after your dog.
Parent blogger, Jenny says: “It’s important to consider cost, space and commitment when thinking of getting a new pet. There’s no point in buying a dog if you have 4 after school clubs and are out all day with no time to walk it.”
The greatest challenge of finding a new pet to introduce into the family is matching the personality of the animal to your child.
For example, an active and excitable child should always be supervised when handling a pet especially if the animal is timid or nervous. Calm and relaxed children are stereotypically better around animals and if anything, feel more nervous and shy around the pet.
It’s important to do some research into the temperament of the animal breed you are considering for your family especially if you are considering a dog. Cats tend to be more shy, lazy and calm which means they’re better suited to calmer children who won’t torment them and want to play constantly. Animals like rabbits and guinea pigs enjoy being cuddled and petted so they’re the perfect match for affectionate and gentle children.
Choosing the right pet also depends on the age of your child:
Toddler - Primary School: Your child can help with basic chores. For example, grooming and replacing bedding in cages. Younger children should always be supervised with any pet.
High School: Children of this age should be capable of keeping their own small pets such as hamsters, gerbils or fish. They will still need supervision when taking general care of the animals but also can be given the responsibility to take care of larger animals such as dogs and cats by grooming and feeding them. If your child is older, they can also be trusted to walk the dog alone or with an older sibling.
College - Uni: If your child is older and studying A Levels or at college, they can be trusted to take care of a pet without any direct supervision. Make sure you remind them to walk, groom, feed and clean up after the pet to ensure they are taking care of it properly.
Dogs provide more than companionship; they motivate you to exercise every day, even if it’s a 30 minute walk around the block - your dog needs a walk every day, meaning you get out of the house too! Owning a dog can also improve your social life as you are likely to stop and chat to fellow dog walkers, giving you the opportunity to make new friends.
However, there are downsides of owning a dog: They require a lot of attention and even when you go away, you have to invest in a petsitter which can be quite costly depending on the length of your holiday.
In fact, owning a dog costs a lot of money in general - their food, treats, toys and grooming all adds up. It can also be a messy job when training a new puppy so you must be prepared for that before considering a pet dog for your family.
Although you don’t have to leave the house and walk a pet cat, there are still a few unexpected benefits of owning one. Spending time with a cat can help tackle stress and have a positive impact on your mood. Cat companionship can also help with loneliness and depression.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with a pet cat either, if they’re a house cat, you have to empty their litter trays which can smell rather unpleasant. You also can’t control or train a cat like you can a dog so if you’re looking for a more laidback animal who does their own thing - a cat is the one for you!
If you’re looking for a pet that’s easy to look after, a hamster is the perfect choice. Hamsters are simple to take care of and are rather clean animals so they make a great pet for younger children who want a bit of independence.
Hamsters are nocturnal, this may be a problem if you’re a light sleeper. This also means your hamster will be asleep during the day when your children will want to play with it. If a hamster is awoken, they can become agitated and are known to bite - which can be more painful than you’d expect!
If you’re not ready for a pet in your family, whether you’re not in the right place financially or you live in rented property, there are other ways you can get your children to spend time with animals and let them discover what kind of animals they enjoy spending time with.
There are so many benefits of taking your children to petting zoos. First and foremost, it gives them the opportunity to see different animals first hand and learn more about them.
Petting zoos in and around Sheffield:
- http://www.astonspringsfarm.co.uk/ - A place for the local community to explore, play, eat and shop. Animals such as; meerkats, alpacas, ponies, goats, sheep, rheas, donkeys and more. Outdoor play area, restaurant and pottery painting studio.
- https://www.heeleyfarm.org.uk/ - Friendly farm and environmental visitor centre. There are lots of animals and an under 8’s playground with a cafe as well as a garden centre.
- https://www.barnsley.ac.uk/shops-services/wigfield-farm/ - This farm runs “stay and play” sessions which is an informal play session where your little ones can get involved in various activities each week as well as meet the animals!