Teaching Children Responsibility with a Pet

Dogs and children have always developed a special bond, making them natural companions. However, there is much more than just “a guy and his dog” bond. Unknowingly, kids benefit from having pets in ways that you may not have expected.

For example, having a pet can be an excellent teaching tool for instilling responsibility in children. Pet ownership is a dream for many youngsters, but getting them to care for that pet, provide food and clean them can be challenging. Inherent in most children’s minds are being accountable for one’s actions. Over time and with guidance from parents and other mentors, they learn the skills they need. A great place to start learning essential life lessons is by taking on the role of “pet parent” yourself when you’re still young.

Boy with a dog

Important Life Lessons Kids Learn from their Pets

Kid with a pet

Ownership of a pet has numerous advantages. Children learn vital life skills from pets, such as self-control, empathy, respect, and patience. While children gain significantly from having pets, pets equally benefit from having children in their lives. Pets and children alike benefit from high-energy play and the company of a snuggle friend when they need a break from the day.

1. Responsibility. Owning a pet teaches youngsters responsibility, which is one of the numerous advantages of having one. “Pets are like a best friend,” says Gail F. Melson, Ph.D., retired child development and family studies professor at Purdue University. You may count on them for emotional support, and taking care of them teaches children to care about others and to take responsibility for the well-being of others.

2. Trust. Children (and adults) can rely on the unconditional support of a pet whether they are feeling down, angry, or disturbed. Having a pet can help your child develop a greater sense of self-confidence and trust in others.

3. Compassion. Children learn the fundamental requirements of taking care of others by taking care of their pets. As we all know, Pets have no way of expressing their needs and are entirely dependent on us. When children connect with their dogs, they can learn to be kind, empathetic, and compassionate toward others.

4. Self-Esteem. Children gain confidence and a greater sense of self-worth when they realize that you are willing to entrust them the responsibility of caring for the pet. Children’s self-esteem improves when pets display unconditional love. Children’s self-esteem is enhanced when they learn to take responsibility for their actions.

Boy with a kiiten

5. Behavioral Awareness. Parents can help their children understand how their actions affect the family pet by pointing out how they affect it. When a child is exuberant and agitating the pet, the pet may react negatively, or by repeatedly yanking on the cat’s tail, the child may eventually drive the cat away. Their actions have repercussions, which can be seen through their relationships with their pet.

6. Dealing with Grief. Pets have shorter lives than their owners, which means your children may have to deal with losing a beloved pet. The death of the family pet is a natural introduction for children to the concept of grieving the loss of a loved one. The death of a pet can teach a child valuable lesson about coping with emotions like loneliness, rage, and melancholy if appropriately handled. This experience can teach your child that it’s alright to feel sad and cry after a loss and that it’s essential to talk about it and share pleasant memories. When a pet dies, a youngster will gain insight into the nature of grief.

7. Respect. If you treat your pet with respect, you will earn the pet’s trust and affection. Kids learn that they must treat the animal with care, allow it to do what it wants, and more. It’s tough for children to acquire respect for others at a young age, but requiring careful handling and teaching youngsters about limits while the pet eats or sleeps will help.

8. Leadership. People who own pets, particularly dogs, must establish and enforce rules, discipline the pet, and reward the creature for good conduct to keep the pet safe and happy. These behaviors encourage children to develop self-confidence and a sense of authority, essential to being an effective leader.

How to Teach Children Responsibility by Owning a Pet?

Boy with pets

1. Encourage and Educate. Teach Your Kids to Think Like their Pet: Kids need to understand how their pets may think. Explain to your youngster that a pet is a living, breathing creature with physical and emotional needs. Candi Wingate, president of Care4Hire, recommends helping children understand the pet’s demands.

2. Be a Role Model. Caring for a pet can be an excellent opportunity to teach the kids important lessons on responsibility. Cheryl Orletsky, dog trainer and CEO of Holiday Pet Care, says parents must lead by example. “Parents must be willing to demonstrate to the child what proper dog or pet care includes and lovingly remind them repeatedly, partly in words, but often by stepping in to guarantee proper care is maintained.”

3. Not a Chore, but a Privilege. A child may feel overwhelmed if assigned unwelcome or confusing tasks. Sharing jobs with a parent may help a reluctant youngster. Allow the youngster to choose between feeding, walking, grooming, and exercising the dog or a pet. Selecting a task gives the youngster “ownership” and encourages them to complete it. Celebrate their achievements and explain the repercussions if they don’t follow through. Never punish a child for caring for a pet; it should be gratifying.

4. Being Consistent with a Timetable. Maintaining a regular schedule is a crucial component of becoming an adult. Adults are expected to arrive on time to work every day. Having a pet teaches children to be more punctual. Walking a dog at a specific time of day is essential. The child who can walk their husky every day at 4 p.m. is the one who can stick to a schedule.

Girl with a dog

5. Choose Chores that are appropriate for a child’s age. One other method that having a pet can help teach a youngster responsibility is by giving the child age-appropriate responsibilities relating to the pet. 

6. Taking a stand or making a decision. Taking care of a pet entails making choices. The ability to make wise decisions is a critical aspect of adulthood. Choosing a pet’s name, finding a place to sleep each night, and selecting food for the animal are just some of the decisions a child will have to make. Pet naming might provide the child with a sense of power and mastery over their lives.

7. Educating Others. Ownership of a pet necessitates training others to care for it properly. When a child goes on vacation and leaves their pet with another adult, they may need to explain how to treat the dog or what their cat eats. Children can learn to teach via practice. They’ll learn responsibility and self-assurance as a result of this. 

8. Time Management. You can teach children how to prioritize their priorities by taking care of their pets. The ability to set priorities will serve them well as an adult.

When children grow older, they can take on greater responsibility while still closely supervised by an adult. If you’re not secure enough in your child’s abilities to let her accomplish activities independently, supervise her until you are. As long as you treat pet duty as an opportunity rather than a chore, your youngster will be glad to accept the job. There are many valuable life lessons that youngsters can learn from a pet. However, having a pet to train your children is not good. A pet should be a family member, not just a means to an end. As a family, you should bring a pet into your house and treat him as if he were your son or daughter.