Tips for Selecting Child-Friendly Pets

A child-friendly Guinea Pig With Flowers

Adding a pet to your home is like adding another member of the family. Much like a younger sibling might add joy and fun, they can also add some challenges to your family dynamic. When choosing a child-friendly pet, it is important to consider the ages and maturity of your children; think also about the various levels of responsibility and added work each type of pet entails.

Of course, we at Tipp Veterinary Hospital want you to experience all the joys of pet ownership, but we also want to help you choose wisely so that you’re sure to be thrilled with your new family member.

Before you bring home your new best friend, there are things you’ll need to consider and discuss as a family.

Who will be the primary care giver for your new pet?

For many people their childhood pet was their very best friend. Although the sentiment is great and the memories we share about the dogs from our youth still make us smile, it is important to remember that children can’t be solely responsible for the care of a pet.

Your kids can (and should) help with many pet-related chores. However, there needs to be an adult willing to tackle the full-time job which is pet care. Depending on the type of animal you choose this can be just a few minutes a day (e.g., changing water and litter boxes for a bunny), or several hours a week of playing fetch and walking the dog.

Which type of animal will be most child-friendly for your family and your home?

You’ll need to ask yourself some serious questions before bringing home a new pet. For instance, do you already have pets? Considering how a new animal may interact with your existing child-friendly pets is an important thing to work out. Often, for older animals the introduction of a new, younger pet can be stressful and cause anxiety. Though, sometimes a youthful pal is just what an aging pet needs. You know your pets best; only you will be able to determine how a new pet will interact with your existing family pets.

Do you live in a small or upper level apartment? Are you willing to walk those several flights of stairs to daily walk a dog? Or is a smaller animal like a reptile or hamster a better fit for your lifestyle?

Some pets, require daily attention while others need much more minimal care. Is your work schedule and school schedule conducive to having a cat or dog who need more one-on-one attention? Or should you consider more child-friendly pets like fish, turtles and birds who have less involved care schedules. Busy families who have limited time might want to consider a fish tank; they only need weekly cleaning instead of daily maintenance.

How old are your children? Are they mature enough to handle some responsibility?

Although there is no magic number for when a child is ready for a pet, it’s important to think about your child’s maturity level when selecting a pet. A family dog often works well with small children because parents are already accustomed to taking primary responsibility for it. However, when choosing a smaller animal who will belong solely to the child it is sometimes best to wait until the child is old enough to understand their job as caretaker.

If you are getting a pet to be a companion for your child, waiting until they are 5 or 6 years old is usually a good idea. This way they are old enough to understand that their pet is not a toy. You will also be able to help your child to learn about proper care and treatment of animals.

Choose your pet carefully

Although most domesticated animals are friendly enough, choosing a pet that doesn’t suit your family’s needs can be harmful to your pet and your children. Remember that all animals have the potential to bite and an animal who is scared or feels threatened is more likely to react negatively.

For small children, teaching them appropriate behavior around pets will help reduce this threat and establishing rules such as “do not approach the pet while it is sleeping or eating” can help to keep everyone safe.

Birds, rabbits, and cats all have a tendency to scratch when they are alarmed or trying to get away from a situation. Additionally, children are the population of people who are most likely to be bitten by a pet. Maintaining close observation of your child and your pet as they interact is crucial to avoid accidents.

The ASPCA offers a few guidelines to help pet owners choose a pet for their family based on the age of children:

Under 3 years old

Focus on introducing your baby or child to your current family pets. Introducing a new pet at this time might be difficult as babies and pets don’t often understand each other well. Loud cries from a baby might make a new pet anxious and vice versa.

3 to 5 years

Guinea pigs are a good, child-friendly choice for this age group as they are hearty little things. Guinea pigs don’t often bite and enjoy interacting with their humans. Children can be taught to help fill water bottles, safely feed treats, and fill food bowls.

5 to 10

Choose pets like mice, rats, hamsters or fish are good for this age. Children can learn how to clean cages with adult supervision and enjoy watching their pet grow.

10 to 13

Children at this age are often ready for more responsibility. Dogs, cats, rabbits and birds are better for this age level. Adults will still be the primary care givers, but kids can take responsibility for more of their pet’s daily needs. These include things like feeding, walking,  and cleaning cages or litter boxes. Kids can also attend dog training classes or participate in other pet related activities.

14 to 17

Teenagers often have strict schedules and limited free time. At this age, although they are responsible enough for pet care, reptiles, fish and birds are often good choices. This is because they have less time available to spend with their pets.

Choosing a child-friendly dog breed

If you’ve decided to add a dog to your family, choosing the right breed for your lifestyle can be important to making sure everyone (dog included) is happy with the choice.

Our customers often ask us which breed of dog is best with kids. As a parent, we know you want to ensure your children are safe around your new family pet, but the truth is, all dogs have the potential to bite. Although we can recommend breeds that are known to be great family choices, (retrievers and Labradors, for instance are loyal and tolerant companions) a dog’s breed is only one of the many elements that will impact their behaviors and temperament.

You’ll need to consider if you need an allergy friendly pal like a poodle or a schnauzer, or a jogging partner like a shepherd. Your choice of pup will depend on your lifestyle and how you’d like to share your dog’s company. If you’re looking for a couch potato to cuddle with on Sunday mornings or a friend to guard the backyard while the kids play you’ll be choosing different breeds for that reason.

Truly, the most child-friendly dog for your kids will be the one who fits well into your family. Making sure your pup receives proper socialization, training, affection and exercise, will ultimately be more important than which breed you choose.

As always if you have any questions please feel free to contact any of our knowledgeable staff about your new furry, family member.

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I was looking for a new vet and a friend recommended this place. I usually like "homier" places, but all of the staff were so nice and I absolutely loved the vet. They gave options without pushing to do the most expensive thing... a HUGE plus!! Got a call the next day on our doggy's blood tests.

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I had to put my dog chewy to sleep on Saturday September 14, 2019 and the doctor and staff were very nice and comforting! I'm really glad we went here. It was a very hard and difficult day but they made it a little easier. Thank you so very much!

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Great place to take a pet! They have a great staff who was caring and friendly. The place seemed to be in top shape. Would definitely recommend to a friend!

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