Pets hold a dear place in the hearts of many, adults and children alike. Whether it’s as a playmate, cuddle buddy or confidant, pets have been found to help nurture qualities of commitment, compassion and empathy within children. Allowing children the opportunity to get involved in routine pet-related chores is a fantastic way to teach them about the value of responsibility and what that entails. While the adults will inevitably be responsible for the overall wellbeing of pets (much to the disagreement of children worldwide), even very young children can get involved when it comes to caring for family pets.

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Why routine?

Knowing what to expect each day encourages feelings of safety and security within pets. So why not take advantage of the new school year, and set your family up for success with a few productive, pet related routines.

Who should do what?

Age, disposition, and maturity level of the child all need to be taken into account when deciding which pet related chores they are capable of helping out with and which may need to wait a while. Most parents will understand that no two six-year-olds are the same. Chores for children under the age of 6 include: helping to walk the dog, assisting with meals, grooming your pets and playtime whereby they can throw balls for the dog, etc. Chores for children over the age of 7 include: Scooping out the litter box or picking up dog waste, helping with bathing, training, cleaning. One of the less obvious chores (to children) when it comes to pet ownership is cleaning. Getting your older children involved in these chores and processes is recommended.

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As a general guideline, children of the following ages are usually capable of effectively carrying out the following chores:

Additional practical tips to help you foster pet-friendly routines:

Feed your pet at the same time daily. This will help improve their overall digestive processes, as well as keep energy levels stable.

Make after school time ‘walk or play’. This is a great time to get the kids involved. Both kids and pets will be able to expend excess energy, which ultimately means fewer distractions during homework time.

Have a schedule and keep to it. Like kids, pets aren’t always huge fans of bath time. Allowing pets to play, perform tricks and enjoy treats during bath time should help ease the bath time battles.

Practice an obedience refresher course with your dog(s) weekly. This will help to prevent bad habits developing over time.

Families with multiple children may find it helpful to create a chart that documents each of the pet related chores and who is responsible for each. Remember that chores should be age appropriate for each child, and try to rotate chores where possible so that one child isn’t forever doomed to clean out the kitty litter!

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