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Kids and Pets – How to Help Them Become Best Friends

By Colleen Williams
July 5, 2011 • 2 min. read
cat and a kid

One of the joys of having pets is watching your child grow up and interact with this four-legged member of your family. Pets encourage many life lessons for adults and kids alike, such as responsibility and patience, and encourage us all to get more exercise. Our pets can also benefit from interacting with kids; petting and snuggling helps reduce their stress, and our kids help keep our pets in great shape too!

Here are a few helpful tips to engage your kids and pets in activities they can both benefit from:

pet and kid
A little girl enjoying a quick run with her dog!
  • Give your children simple pet care chores and tasks, such as brushing or bathing your pets, giving them food and water, taking them for a walk, and letting them outside or picking up after them. Always make these age-appropriate activities. A toddler can help scoop food for your pets and a teen can walk the family dog.  This encourages responsibility and gives them a chance to care for something other than themselves.
  • If your pet is constantly anxious or stressed out by loud noises and new people, use your child as a stress-reducer. Pets will be more relaxed when members of their family are present as they’re slowly introduced to stressful things. This goes both ways, as pets have been proven to decrease stress in their family members as well.
  • Encourage your child to teach your pet a trick. This may be a little easier with dogs.  Your pet will love the attention it gets, and your child will learn patience from the challenge. There’s also nothing better than a well-trained, entertaining pet.
  • Offer your child rewards for walking your dog. After a while, they might get used to the idea, and even enjoy spending quality time with your family pet. This activity can increase your dog and kid’s physical activity level, preventing obesity in both.
  • Invest in a few toys or tennis balls, and make it part of your child’s daily routine to play with your pet (beyond walks). Tossing a ball inside or outside the house provides amusement for both.

For most kids, their childhood pet is remembered with fondness and love, and may even inspire them to adopt a pet for their own children. Fostering a good relationship between your pet and kid is a great lesson for everyone. Encourage your child and family members to spend at least a few hours every day caring for or playing with your pet – everyone will be much happier and calmer as a result.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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