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We all love and care for our pets – we see them as a member of the family, so it goes without saying that taking care of their health is super important. Looking after pets should be a family affair, and getting children involved is a fantastic opportunity to teach them about routine and responsibility.

“The main thing to consider when involving your child in pet care duties is to start off with tasks that you know your pet enjoys,” says vet and Australia’s only specialist dental registrar, Dr Kirsten Hailstone. “This will help establish a positive relationship between them and will also show your child that looking after a pet can be fun.”

Here are Dr Kirsten’s top kid-friendly jobs to keep your pet in top health…

  • Pet brushing: show your child how to brush your pet gently and thoroughly, not just in one spot. Be sure to supervise them the first few times until they are confident to do so independently. However, if you notice that your pet has knots, best step in as, just like us, our pets do not enjoy having their tangles pulled out!
  • Putting on a dog harness: if your dog is not too excitable when going for walks, then you can teach your child how to put their harness on. If you are using a harness in the car, showing your child how to put it on and attach it to the seatbelt correctly is a good way to teach the importance of using a seatbelt themselves as part of car safety.
  • Teeth cleaning: it is super important to look after your pet’s teeth as dogs and cats can develop dental disease by age 3 [1] . We all know it can be a chore to get kids to brush their teeth, so why not make it a fun routine they can share with their furry friend! Allow your child to give their dog or cat a dental treat while they are brushing their own teeth. Purina Dentalife is a good example as it is designed to help clean your pet’s teeth and are scientifically tested to reduce tartar build-up particularly on the hard-to-reach back teeth.
  • Positive reward training: you can get your child involved in the basics of pet training, such as teaching them to sit, by showing them how to give their pet a treat. It is a good idea to use a treat that you know your pet loves but is also good for them, an added bonus! [2] Teaching your pet to sit will help you manage your pet in all kinds of situations, and involving your child, when appropriate, can help establish a good bond between them.

“Ultimately, the key to looking after a pet is to plan for their needs,” says Dr Kirsten. “This is a great opportunity to show your children not only how to plan, but why it’s important too. Have your children involved in setting up the family calendar and include your pet’s needs in it, this will make it a fun learning task.”

Above all, Dr Kirsten says you should always remember that supervision between your child and a pet is essential. 

“Starting slow and in small bursts of activity is best with younger children and the level of responsibility can be increased when your pet and child become better acquainted, more mature and patient.”

[1] www.vetvoice.com.au

[2] Shalvey, E., McCorry, M., & Hanlon, A. (2019). Exploring the understanding of best practice approaches to common dog behaviour problems by veterinary professionals in Ireland. Irish Veterinary Journal, 71(1). www.doi.org.

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