Pet care for preschoolers

Pet Care for Preschoolers

OK. You’ve hooked me. There should be a question mark after this title. Why would anyone think that a preschool-age child will be able to fully understand pet care or have the ability to stick with a regime?

A pet requires responsible, committed individuals to assure that its needs are met. After all, we have taken these family pets from their natural place and confined them to our world for our purpose. Some of these animals make better “family pets” than others; observe the recent chimpanzee tragedy.

Let us just stick with the typical family pet for this article; a dog, for example. I think it is perfectly fine, in fact, a necessity, to teach preschool children to respect and care for their dog to the extent that a preschool child is able to do so. They can certainly help feed the dog, brush the dog and, with an adult’s supervision, they should be able to help walk the dog.

However, when all is said and done, the adult(s) in the family must take on the greater responsibility of pet ownership. Dogs that become family pets require basic behavioral training, medical check-ups, annual shots, and medical care if they become ill. If not being used for legitimate breeding purposes they should be altered. They make better family pets and it is better for the dog. They also should not be allowed to run loose.

Years ago, children frequently had a dog walking off-leash beside them in neighborhoods. However, this now is against town codes in many localities; but even more important it is dangerous for the dog and, possibly, for the owner. I, personally, experienced two family dogs being struck by vehicles. Fortunately, both survived and went on to live long lives. I now provide my two dogs with a fully fenced yard.

Yes, I think preschool children can be indoctrinated into pet care, particularly of a gentle dog. I do not think it should be the primary reason for obtaining a dog, or any animal. Too many people acquire animals on the spur of the moment. They are not thinking long-term. And too many are either irresponsible in caring for the pet or they do not have the financial ability, or appropriate housing, to meet all of the animal’s needs. Hence, the ever-growing population of abandoned cats (and dogs).

There is also the issue of child safety. Preschool-age children do not always understand that an animal can hurt them, even a family pet. A young child should never be left unsupervised with a pet. The animal afterall, is still an animal.

Suffice to say, preschool children and pet care is more of a teaching tool – a way to teach a child responsibility. Not their full time job. Children also observe the parents’ behavior. Setting good examples while enlisting a child’s help can be a great way to teach a child about caring for other living things. However, if you, as an adult, do not feel ready to take on all that’s involved in the care of an animal, then do not bring a pet into your home. Wait until everyone in the household is on board. Caring for a pet is similar to caring for a child. Think about it.

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