Puppy Love: Pros & Cons of Pet Ownership

For children with learning disabilities, the right pet can promote empathy and nurturing skills, encourage socialization and communication, and provide physical and emotional contact in a non-threatening way. Pet ownership, however, is not a one-way street. Some children have wonderful experiences caring for animals, while others are overwhelmed by the responsibility.

Caring for a pet can help your child develop social skills, self-esteem, self-confidence and belief in a trusting relationship.

 Proceed with Caution

If your child is begging for a pet, don’t rush the decision-making. Humane societies are filled with unwanted animals that have sadly ended up with the wrong owners. Putting your child in charge of investigating and planning is a good way to gauge his commitment to the responsibilities involved. Have him learn which animals require what care, and what animals require more care than your family may be willing to give. Children serious enough to approach the research have a better chance at caring for an animal appropriately.

Choose a pet that your child can care for, but expect to help with everything from finances to feces. Work with him to develop a schedule for the pet’s daily food, water, and exercise. Make him understand that a pet whose needs are not met will have to find a better home. And never allow him to be rough or abusive with a pet.

In most cases, children over 10, despite their learning differences, can reap enormous benefits from pet ownership. It can be a wonderful way to help an impulsive, self-centered child learn patience and empathy. Caring for a pet can help develop social skills, self-esteem, self-confidence and belief in a trusting relationship. For children who might otherwise be sedentary, owning a pet that demands physical activity encourages daily exercise. Most important, a pet can help children learn respect for other living things as they follow their pets through the life cycle.