Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Puppy Time?

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.  

                   Taking care of any pet, especially dogs who are known for their loyalty to the “master,” will help your son build a sense of self-esteem.  He will feel important in the “eyes” of the dog, and will feel that “My doggy likes me; I must be OK.

                  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.

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