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Naughty or Nice?
Young Children and Holiday Pets


Visions of Kodak moments dancing in your head make the idea of giving your child  a puppy or kitty for a holiday seem like a wonderful idea. 

The best advice is to wait until after the holidays to introduce a new animal member into  the family.    Busy holiday schedules may not allow for the necessary time to adjust to a new furry friend in the house.  The ASPCA does not approve of pets as gifts.

But if you simply can't wait,  don't let your kids confuse the new family member with other holiday offerings.  Susie Campbell, public relations director at the
Helen Woodward Animal Center  recommends  " if people want to buy pets for Christmas presents, don't make it a surprise." 

Pets are not toys and should not be treated as such.  It is also vital that parents be prepared to teach (and teach and teach....) their young children how to properly handle animals.

From the moment infants are introduced to their homes, they are exposed to a variety of toy stuffed animals. Children become very attached to these toys,  usually handling them roughly and pulling off eyes and limbs. These "love toys" strengthen the attraction to our animal friends but can have a detrimental side when the time comes for the child to become a pet owner.

Young live animals, like young children, need to be handled  with care. Being picked up under the forelegs, hindquarters dangling, or being pulled by the tail or ears can cause serious injury. This kind of treatment can also result in behavior problems such as shying away from handling or defensive nipping. It is essential that children learn to handle or pick up a new pet properly.

Children should be seated first and shown that cupping the rump in one hand and the chest in the other as if cradling an infant is a proper way to pick up an animal. Holding the kitten or puppy close to the body not only gives added support but has a settling effect on the pet. Unlike stuffed animals, puppies and kittens have teeth and claws. If standing and nipped or scratched by a new pet, children's first reaction is to let go dropping whatever is in their arms. Therefore proper holding in a seated positon may eliminate some injury problems.

Choosing the right pet for the right situation is the first good basic step to pet ownership. Be it breed or mixed breed, large dogs may be good with children, but need considerable  exercise. Very small dogs may be shy around children. All pets need daily care which can include grooming, nail care and oral hygiene. Checking with a veterinarian or professional groomer can help greatly in making the decision on adding a new pet to the family. Their knowledge and information can guide you in the right direction. In addition, there are many books   available which help parents and children understand the responsibilities and added years of happiness of pet ownership.

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Related Links:

10 Tips Tor Responsible Dog Ownership

ASPCA Pet Care Guides for Kids