Waiting until your kids are a little older in getting a family pet is a good idea, especially one who requires a lot of care such as a dog. A pet can be a joyful experience for a family but it can also be a real pain, if you’re not prepared.

Here are a few RMD tips for new pet families:

1. Before you do anything, wait until YOU MOM, are ready. This is key. Yes, they may all promise to walk it and feed it and clean up its poops and rug stains. They won’t. I’m not being cynical, it’s just true. Because at the end of the day the burden will fall on you. After all, you probably care a lot more than anyone else if that stain sets into the new rug or not, therefore you will be the one on your knees scrubbing and spraying frantically. If you are in the midst of the toddler years and are already on regular poop cleanup duty, you might want to wait a few years.

2. When deciding on a new pet, decide as a family. Go together to your local shelter. While there, you will be given the opportunity to visit with animals you are interested in. Take your time doing this. Pay close attention to how each animal reacts and engages with each family member. Also look for signs of allergic reactions. We found out our son was allergic to cats during the visit. Quickly we became a dog family.

3. Include the kids in taking your pet to the vetrinarian visits. This is a great way to expose them to how professionals take care of animals. It also helps them understand the health care of their pet and the others they may get exposed to during the visit.

4. Assign caretaking chores. Make a visible calendar for care taking of the new pet. Give each child age appropriate tasks including feeding, walking and grooming. This way your kids start to learn how to care take and are inching toward being more responsible people.

5. Talking about your pet’s feelings builds a dialogue for compassion and empathy. The child will hopefully form a bond with the pet and engaging them by talking about the feelings of an animal who cannot speak for themselves open up channels of understanding in children.

6. Pets can be hilarious. My kids and I have so many laughs when we engage with our puppy. We bond over playtime with him and make silly voices for him imaging the things he is thinking. Every day we seem to invent a new nickname for him and he seems to be in on the jokes.

7. Cuddling with a pet is the coziest thing and brings the whole family together. An animal can truly become the heartbeat of your home. They want to be in the middle of everything and your kids will want to be around them. It is a wonderful way to bring everybody together and feel connected as a family even more.

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