Life lessons children learn from owning pets

Life lessons children learn owning pets

It is safe to say we are a Dog loving family, I have always had Dog’s as pets from a very early age – in fact, my parents had a Dog before I was born and there was barely a time when there wasn’t a Dog at our family home.

I personally think they make amazing best friends for children and they help to teach them unconditional love and responsibility from a young age.

When I moved in with Paul we never planned to get a pet of any kind, we both worked long hours and were out of the house a lot so it wasn’t something we had planned for a while, however sometimes life has other ideas and one phone call changed things for us overnight.

A week before Christmas a Puppy of around 6 months old had been abandoned, left tied to a bus stop and had been picked up by the Dog Warden. Being so close to Christmas it would have been a hard job to rehome and would have meant he would be in kennels over the festive period. Paul just happened to be on the phone to Broxbourne council at the time making a work call when the Dog was picked up – jokingly they asked if he was looking for a pet, knowing he was a pet lover and would often take his Dad’s Dogs to the council offices with him.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Paul called me and asked if we could have him, I agreed, although half of me did think he was joking – of course, he wasn’t and the following day Barley arrived with us – named by the warden and very quickly renamed Barney by us.

Barney was around 6 months old, house trained and very underweight. He was a little timid for a day or so but fitted straight into our family and even went into work with Paul daily.

He came everywhere with us, holidays, to the pub, to friends houses and never left our sides.

He would walk off a lead by our sides, sit when told at roads and was so easy to walk, unless you tried to put him on a lead – we think a result of being tied up and abandoned he never forgot this even years after and when we had to leave him outside a shop to pop in he would cry constantly until we came out again.

Emmy and Harry grew up with Barney as their best friend, just as Paul and I did with our family pets.

They were so good with him, most of the time and he was so patient with them never once getting cross with their noise or taking over what was once his quiet home.

Here are 10 life lessons children learn from owning pets:

  1. Responsibility
    Pets require daily feeding, exercise and affection as well as looking after additional needs such as grooming and playing with.  There is also the cleaning up which comes with owning pets, making sure you clean up their poo and dispose of correctly, closing doors so they can’t escape, making sure they attend the vets regularly for their injections and their flea treatment and worming treatments are done when they are due.
    Then there is ensuring they are insured properly, there are many companies who offer this such as Petplan Pet Insurance – this is not only helpful should they need treatment but can also help with legal fees should they bite someone or cause an accident (of course no-one wants to think it would happen but if it did you would be covered and not have to find hundreds or thousands of pounds at the drop of a hat to pay)
  2. Trust
    It’s easy to spill your heart out to your pet – worries at school, a fall out with a friend, they will listen to you and can offer unconditional support in return. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who you talk too but getting it out helps and a pet is great for this. Pets make wonderful trusted companions for children and can be a first step to helping children build trust in other relationships.  Of course, young children should always be supervised around pets no matter how loving they are.
  3. Compassion
    Caring for a pet requires compassion, understanding as well as empathy. Pets can help children to be kind and to care for the needs of others.
  4. Respect
    Owning pets help to teach children how to respect others. They must be gentle when touching and stroking them, tend to their needs and learn to give them space when they need it and not to disturb them when eating, sleeping or just want some quiet time – pets will making it known when they don’t want to play and when they do.
  5. Loyalty
    A pet’s loyalty towards its owner is often unmatched and in turn, children will learn the importance of showing loyalty to their devoted pet.
  6. Patience
    Bonding with your pet especially a new one takes time. Children will need to learn patience while their pet becomes not only comfortable in your home but with thse living there too, patience is also required while training your pet too – toys need to be picked up and put away and if not them they may be chewed in the case of puppies.
  7. Physical Activity
    Children who own Dog’s learn quickly how fun physical activity can be and how rewarding it can be for them as well as their pet.  Fun games you can play together include tug-of-war, fetch, frisbee, kicking a ball or even walks with their pet.  Owning a pet also helps to teach children that physical activity doesn’t have to stop when the weather is bad – Dog’s will still need a walk daily/twice daily rain or shine – wrap up well and you will all still have fun
  8. Social Skills
    Dogs can be an amazing social ice-breaker. Taking your dog for walks as a family can help to improve a child’s social skills, as well as your pets socialisation skills. Pet training classes are also a good way for getting your pet used to interacting with others, teaching recall methods when around other distractions is also very helpful.
  9. Self-Esteem
    Pets show unconditional love, which can help to boost a child’s self-esteem and is especially good for shy children or those who struggle to make friends.
  10. Bereavement
    A sad thing about owning pets is that they sadly have shorter lifespans than humans. Children will inevitably feel the pain of the loss of a family pet, but in turn, learn how to cope during that bereavement period.  It is your job as a family and as their parents to help them through this the best you can.
    Having recently lost Barney who was almost 15 years old we have found that letting the children talk about him as much as they want does help, and for us to do the same. Yes, it does mean they cry but that’s all part of the healing process.
    We have also printed off lots of pictures of the children and us with him and have on a shelf in the front room and they have some in their bedrooms – this helps us all to remember the happy memories we helped to create while he was a special part of our family.


**This post is written in conjunction with Petplan, all thoughts and wording are my own**

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