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How to Prepare Your Children for Pet Adoption

The PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend is coming up on November 13 through 15.  This is an exciting time for both families who want to adopt a pet and pets who are waiting for a family to bring them home.   The PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend is a three-day event that is held four times per year.  During this three day period around 15,000 cats and dogs will find their new family.  The local humane societies and other animal welfare organizations will be on-site at your local PetSmart for the National Adoption Weekend .   Find an adoptable pet near you by visiting the PetSmart Find A Pet website. Locate your nearest PetSmart store by visiting the PetSmart Store Locator. If you adopt this weekend, share your story with PetSmart Charities by visiting this link: If your family plans to adopt a pet during the PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend, you’ll want to start preparing your children now to bring home your newest family member.  Here are several tips to keep in mind when you begin to prepare your children for adopting a pet.

Learn the Rules of Adopting a Pet

Depending on which animal welfare organization will be present at your local PetSmart for the Petsmart Charities National Adoption Weekend, there will be certain rules to follow before you can adopt a pet.  You will likely need to have your pet neutered or spayed if he or she has not already had the surgery.  Vaccinations will likely be required, as well. If you have to take your new pet to a veterinarian for a spay/neuter surgery, he or she may have to stay overnight at the animal hospital.  Explain to your children that this is an important, routine surgery and that your pet will be fine, but will need some time to recover after the surgery is over. When your pet receives vaccinations, he or she may be a little sore in the area where the vaccine was injected, so help your children to steer clear of that area for a day or two when petting or grooming.

Teach Your Children to Use Gentle Hands on Pets

Chloe snuggles with her new puppy Angel at the PetSmart National Charities Adoption Event.

Chloe snuggles with her new puppy Angel at the PetSmart National Chartities Adoption Event.

Especially if you have toddlers or preschoolers, it’s important to teach your children to be gentle with animals.  When my boys were toddlers we practiced “gentle hands” by guiding their tiny hands to pet softly and teaching them to avoid touching our pets’ eyes, ears, tails and feet.  Naturally, it takes constant supervision so don’t leave your young children alone with your new pet (or any pet) until they have mastered handling pets in a gentle, loving way.

Talk With Your Children About Pet Discipline

Before bringing a new pet into the home it’s important that everyone is on board for teaching the pet the house rules.  Note that discipline means teaching and NOT punishment.  The goal is not to make your pet hurt when he or she breaks a rule or misbehaves. Make it clear that no one will be using physical punishment on your pet.  Outdated practices such as hitting pets with a rolled up newspaper or putting their nose in their potty accidents are off-limits in a home that is safe and healthy for a pet.   Explain to your children the importance of being proactive when it comes to pet discipline.  For example, you can’t be mad at the pet who eats people food that is left unattended and within reach. You can’t be upset when a bored puppy chews your favorite pair of shoes because you left him alone for too many hours or didn’t provide her with chew toys. Discipline should always be immediate and consistent.  If you don’t catch your pet in the act, you’ve missed an opportunity to teach them what’s unacceptable.  In most cases, your tone of voice is enough to convey the message as long as you consistent give the same message each time the misbehavior happens.

Explain Your Children’s Role in Caring for Your New Pet

Just as it’s important to be proactive when teaching your pet how to behave, letting your children know ahead of time if they are expected to participate in the care of your new pet is key.  If you have more than one child, create a daily schedule that outlines who is responsible for feeding, walking, grooming and any other daily pet care tasks.  Make it fair based on age and ability and be consistent in enforcing the pet care schedule.  Your pet should not suffer because the person who was supposed to feed him or her had soccer practice at your pet’s dinner time, for example.

A sweet moment between a boy and his new cat at the PetSmart National Charities Adoption event.

A sweet moment between a boy and his new cat at the PetSmart National Charities Adoption event.

Give Your Pets Their Own Space

If you have children, chances are they are sometimes loud and rambunctious.  (How’d I know, right?) When a new pet comes into your home, it might become overwhelmed by all of the love (and noise and movement) that your children have to offer.  Make sure your new family member has a space that he or she can go to get away from everyone and nap or recover while adjusting to the new living arrangements.  In addition, monitor your children and remind them to leave your pet to rest for a while after petting or playing.

Teach Your Children About Pet Behavior

When you’ve adopted a new pet it’s important that you are familiar with the body language that your pet will give you and your children when he or she has had enough attention and wants to be left alone.  While cats are fairly easy to read and will often simply leave the situation when they are done interacting, dogs can sometimes give signs that are more subtle and are often confused by humans. Although I’ve had dogs my entire life and once worked as a vet tech, I don’t feel I’m qualified to talk too much about dog body language on my website.  Instead, please read this great article to find out more about what your dog’s body language is telling you and how to know when your dog has had enough attention.

Go Pet Supply Shopping and Discuss Pet Names

Just like you wouldn’t wait until the day your baby is born to starting buying baby supplies, don’t wait until the day of adoption to purchase the bulk of your pet supplies.  When you adopt your pet, you’ll want to get him or her home and into his or her new environment as quickly as possible.   While PetSmart will make it easy to get everything you need for your new pet on the day of adoption, you’ll want to visit your local store before adoption day to peruse the supplies and decide on which items you’d like to get for your pet.  You can already have a most of the items in place before you bring your new family member home, making it easier on you both on the actual adoption day. Let your children pick out a special toy or treat that is from them to your new pet.  Include them in the naming of the pet, as well. Remember, the PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend is November 13-15! Click now to find your local PetSmart and to find adoptable pets near you here. If you adopt a pet at the PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend, be sure to click here to share your story! How to Prepare Your Children For Adopting a Pet

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