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Pets Can Teach Children How to Nurture and Care

Gail Melson, author of Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children has been watching animals and children for some time. She estimates that of every ten children, four grow up in a home that includes domestic animals. She has determined that as many as 90 percent of all youngsters live with a pet at some point during their childhood.

Living with pets and caring for them can teach both boys and girls great lessons.

Young girls are usually encouraged to play with dolls and play house. Girls learn to care and often actively begin tending to others in the home before the age of eight. Girls will play dress-up with their animals, dolls and siblings. Later, girls may become babysitters in their home or neighborhood. The social and caregiving skills learned in these activities are useful to girls throughout their lives.

"Nurturing animals is especially important for boys," Melson says. Young boys are usually not encouraged similarly and may miss out on the opportunity to learn caregiving skills. Balls, cars and sports typically occupy the interest of young boys. Boys can care for pets in their home without fear of criticism or reproach; they are merely caring for their dog, cat, hamster or other animal. Actually providing the care becomes the only issue and boys are able to feel comfortable with nurturing. Taking care of an animal is not gender specific and both boys and girls can always remain equally involved.

"Nurturing isn't a quality that suddenly appears in adulthood when we need it," Dr. Melson advises. "And you don't learn to nurture because you were nurtured as a child. People need a way to practice being caregivers when they're young." Household pets provide frequent opportunities for young boys and girls to develop nurturing habits. Caregiving for animals teaches them responsibility for seeing that the family dog or cat receives fresh water and food at certain times throughout the day.

Children can provide simple care from a very young age and fill greater needs as their abilities allow. Caring for the family pets can also help children expand their sense of self awareness and develop an awareness about other people, time or space. Children will also to develop their ability to anticipate needs.

Helping your child to become responsible for pets in your home needs to occur on a step-by-step basis. The process must be implemented according to your child's cognitive abilities and physical abilities. Remember that each child is different and has different levels of capabilities when you begin talking to them about caring for your household pets.

When your child is the responsible party for providing care for a pet in your home, always remember that you'll still need to keep your eye on the water dishes, food bowls, walks and potty trips. You may find it necessary to provide gentle reminders for your child. Creating happy notes and making simple awards like stickers, stars or allowing extra playtime will make the transition more fun for your child. Involving the whole family to encourage your child will increase his or her success and enjoyment.

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  • "Roxy and i loved our experience with Clinton hill, and our doctor was amazing! She explained everything and answered all my questions. I highly recommend this vet clinic!"
    Amanda Hodge
  • "Always excellent professional care. Staff are empathetic towards pets and pet parents. I highly recommend this clinic. My dogs have been under care there for the past eight years."
    Frances Haile
  • "I wish there was a way to give 10 stars. It was the absolute best experience for us and our cats. The guy it the front desk I’m so sorry I forgot your name but he was extremely patient, thorough and took the time to answer every question we had. The doctor was caring and extremely knowledgeable about cats. It was the best experience 10 stars!"
    Brian Bee
  • "This place specializes in creating great relationships with owners and pets. I've been with Dr. Pamela Dendtler since 2003 ! Awesome care and service."
    Diedre Yvonne Gary
  • "We have trusted Dr. Dentler and company with three dogs so far, all of them beloved family members, and time after time she has proven to be extremely knowledgeable, experienced, and intuitive. She has diagnosed tricky conditions other vets have missed, and recently my dog went through surgery with her team... we were treated with such care and concern. All the staff in this office, from LJ at the front desk to the vet techs who help administer care, have treated us-- and our animals-- with respect and dedication. Strongly recommend this place, i have not met a smarter vet in this city."
    KC G
  • "To Dr Dendtler and Staff, I cant begin to tell you how impressed I am with the loving care you have given to my cat Baxter, before and after the much needed surgery. Baxter is so pleased with the outcome; he goes around purring all day."
    Thanks again. -Estelle P.
  • "Dear Pamella, We want to thank all of you so much, not only for the loving care and consideration you showed us last Thursday when we had to say goodbye to Gericho but also for all the years of check-ups and other crisis' that we went through with him. We know it was your good efforts that allowed him to live a full and vigorous 16 years that gave us so much pleasure. Please know that we have always found your staff to be so courteous and helpful all these years."
    Thank you. -Cathy W.
  • "Dear Dr. Dendtler, You were very thorough and caring in treating Buddy. You explained clearly how to protect my dog. I have been to many clinics but you are the best. You were very professional and compassionate. Buddy and I are very grateful. Thanks ever so much to you and your staff."
    John L.
  • "Hi Dr Dendtler, Thank you so very much for fixing my eye. I can see clearly now…I can see all obstacles in my way! Love Vernell R"
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