Info For Teachers

Strenghthening the Human-Animal Bond

A pet in the life of a child can be a rewarding and enriching experience for the child, however, getting a pet does not guarantee a strong human-animal bond. Pets need their owners to take care of them and meet their basic needs. Only then can both benefit from the relationship.

Before you add a pet to your family, here are a few things to consider. 

Different pets have different needs that can impact a family’s lifestyle

When choosing what kind of animal or even breed to get, it’s important to be mindful of how a family’s lifestyle and expectations may interfere with the pet’s needs. For example, getting an animal that requires a lot of attention and interaction, such as a dog, may not be suitable for a family who are rarely at home. If you have young children, or someone in your family is immunocompromised, then reptiles and amphibians are not a good choice. Most reptiles carry Salmonella naturally in their gut, and will shed the bacteria in their droppings, which can cause infection. It’s important for the family to choose an appropriate pet, and then be willing to  make the adjustments they need to accommodate the animal’s needs. 

Have realistic expectations about a chosen pet

A family may have a specific reason for getting a pet, such as wanting a cat so they can curl up on their lap. However, it’s important to avoid making generalizations, as not all cats will want to curl up on the laps of people. Likewise, many people show affection to dogs by hugging them. Most dogs find hugging constraining and stressful, and dogs do not normally show affection in this way. Respecting the pet’s choices is an important part of caring for an animal and this needs to be taught to children. Having specific expectations for their pet may cause frustration and hinder a child’s relationship with their animal.

Understand that taking care of a pet takes a lot of work

While having a pet can be a fun experience for a child, it’s also important that the child is aware of the responsibilities and sacrifices that must be taken to address the pet’s needs, such as cleaning up messes and taking their pet for a walk (even when they don’t feel like it!). A family should be patient, organized, and equipped with the resources they need to meet the pet’s needs on a daily basis. 

Be aware of the financial commitment of caring for an animal

The cost of taking care of a pet depends on the animal, so it’s important that a family is aware of the costs ahead of time. The costs can increase when healthcare is neglected as failing to provide regular veterinary checks can exacerbate unknown health problems further. 

Time must be allocated to training and socialization of the animal

If an animal is untrained or not trained using positive reinforcement and not appropriately socialized, this can cause the pet to develop behavioural problems. For instance, cats that are shouted at, or sprayed with water when doing something ‘wrong,’ have a tendency to be more aggressive. These problems can negatively impact a child’s relationship with their animal, such as developing fear for the animal or no longer being interested in taking care of their pet. It’s important that the family is patient and committed to positive reinforcement training for the animal for their entire lifetime. 

Conduct research to understand the needs of the animal

Not all pets have the same needs, so it’s important that all family members have the necessary knowledge to take care of their chosen pet, such as knowing what foods to avoid feeding their pet or how much exercise their pet needs. Even pets that are considered “easy” to take care of have complex needs that require an adult’s oversight. Having this background knowledge will ensure the well-being of the animal at all times.

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