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11 Simple And Easy Ways To Teach Your Kids How To Look After Pets

Kids love pets, so it's important they learn how to care for their furry BFFs.

1. First of all, it's important to let your children know the best kind of body language to use around pets...

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Teaching children to be calm and respectful around pets is vital: They shouldn't pull tails, try to squeeze, climb on, or push them around. On the other hand, some pets love hugs, while others don't — It's really about mutual respect.

It's also important to never leave pets and young children together unsupervised.

2. ...as well as learning what their body language means.

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Teaching children to be respectful of pets doesn't mean they can't stroke the family dog or cat: It's about doing it safely. Dogs and cats both use body language to say when they don't want to be petted.

If dogs are crouching with their ears flat, have their hackles raised, or have their tail between their legs, it can mean they're nervous and may bite. There are also more subtle signs of stress, such as lip licking and a tucked tail.

Cats have similar "tells". For example, if they are crouched and stiff with open and unblinking eyes or have bristling whiskers or a fluffed out tail, don't try to play! Flat ears and lifting a paw are a less obvious sign of your cat being anxious.

3. Reading books about pets together is a great bonding activity.

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It's also a great way to boost the child's reading ability while reducing stress and anxiety.

There are lots of fab storybooks about pets for all age ranges and nonfiction books too — like Battersea Dogs & Cats Home's excellent, child-focused books Caring for Dogs and Puppies and Caring for Cats and Kittens, which are available to buy online.

4. As is exploring the great outdoors as a group.

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If you have dogs, you can get the children involved in planning exciting dog walks together, to the woods, your favourite park, the countryside, or the beach.

5. Encourage your child to brush and groom your pet.

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If your pet is happy to be brushed, then this is a fun activity for your child to try out — while supervised to ensure they're being gentle with the pet. Grooming helps to keep their coat in tip-top condition, and it's a great bonding exercise. It's also a good idea to encourage older children to clean up after your pet too. Cleaning up poop isn't as much fun as playing fetch, but it's a vital part of owning an animal!

6. And get them involved at feeding time.

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One particularly important pet care lesson is not to overfeed your cat or dog, as obesity causes health problems in animals as well as people. Your children can learn how to measure out the right portion of food and then put it in the bowl.

7. It's a good idea to create a pet-care chart.

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Once you've covered the basics like grooming and giving your pet quality food and clean water, it can be fun to turn some of these responsibilities into a reward chart, to encourage the kids to remember the daily care that all pets need. Your pets will be no doubt be grateful for the extra attention and TLC too!

8. Let your wee ones come with you to the vet...

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Coming on vet visits is a great way for children to find out just what goes into caring for a pet, as well as what kinds of vaccinations they need in order to stay healthy. Who knows? It might even inspire them to become a vet themselves!

9. ...and to training classes, too.

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By going to training classes as a family, the children will learn fun new activities to try out at home. You can follow it up by planning some enrichment activities together, like teaching your dog basic commands to entertain and keep them busy.

10. Don't forget to lead by example. After all, if kids see you being a fantastic pet parent, they'll follow suit.

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If you're calm, responsible, respectful, and kind when interacting with the family dog or cat, and always wait for them to come to you before giving them a fuss, then over time your children will absorb that lesson and start doing the same. It's as easy as that!

11. But most importantly of all: They should have fun!

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After all, owning a pet isn't just about responsibilities, tasks, and chores: Dogs, cats, and other animals are fantastic to be around, fun to play with, and they enrich all of our lives. It's important that kids enjoy their time with their childhood pet, as this love will last forever and inspire them to treat animals kindly for the rest of their lives.

Learn more about educating your children on becoming responsible pet owners with Purina.