Every Christmas, every birthday, even every St. Patrick’s Day, your child has asked for a pet, and every year you say no, but recently you are beginning to relent. You think little Timmy might actually be ready for the responsibility of pet ownership, but what is the best pet for him and how do you actually help your child make this important choice?
First of all, do not let your child hold all of the cards in the decision process. Ask Timmy what kind of pet he would like to have and the answer might range from a ducky to a dinosaur, so start off by setting some limits. If you are an apartment dweller, you are already limited with your pet choices. No Great Danes in the penthouse!
Next, consider the level of commitment that your child has shown to projects in the past. Has he started off gung-ho, only to start slacking off with sports, hobbies and other interests? Think about your child’s closet floor, does it look like the island of lost dreams? Are there the skates he wore once, fell in, and then cast off? Or does he have the staying power to see things through to the end? The more dedication that your child has, the more pet choices you can look at. The interest of the child should be at least long enough to get the new pet into middle age.
Of course, you should also consider the “ick” factor. Is your child squeamish and germophobic? Would this child snap if there were little gerbil goodies left on the palm of his hand? Or worse, would the child be nearly hysterical at the thought of feeding the pet he mistakenly chose? The fussier the child, the cleaner the pet has to be, and the less hands on. For the really finicky child, you might want to consider some nice tropical fish.
And finally, consider the temperament and the activity level of the child. Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, and some people are finding that a dog is a good way of getting their little couch tater-tots up and about- but don’t count on a pooch working miracles on a truly unmotivated kid. Laid back kids do well with laid back animals, while the more energetic kids can run the energy out of the more active labs and Jack Russell terriers. And, the opposites attract concept might be beneficial here as well. A gentle pug might help calm a child that just cannot sit still, while a bouncy Boxer might actually break a shy child out of his shell. Give your child his options and then let him have a say in the decision. It is the family pet, but hopefully, this will be his friend.