Q. My four-year-old had been pestering me to get him a puppy. I think it’s a good idea, but my wife says he is too young. Who’s right?
I think you’re on the right track. A child who has reached the age of four is able to perform simple tasks and develop a sense of responsibility, both of which come with having a pet. There are clues to tell if your child is ready for a pet:
- Can he get himself dressed and groomed?
- Has he completed toilet training?
- Can he manage eating without help?
Ability to perform these tasks indicates the child can handle some simple responsibilities of owning a pet.
A dog also provides daily opportunities for your child to learn respect and consideration. Talk with your child about caring for the pet, such as:
“Be gentle when you pet your puppy—like this.” And show the child what to do.
Patience and the benefits of delayed gratification also can be learned with a pet. For example, your child will learn that he must wait until the dog finishes eating before they can play. Children also seem able to exercise patience with a pet more easily than with an adult or another child.
Finally, another important benefit of having a dog is exercise. Many children today do not voluntarily go outdoors and run or walk unless a parent or another child is along. Having a dog to walk and run with provides both fun and an opportunity for exercise. The dog also can be a terrific companion, helping to expand your child’s imagination, and provide a “playmate” for the times you and your wife must be busy.