There is huge attention given to pets and animals these days which is revealing so much deeper understanding of how animals connect well with humans in ways which were never imagined.
A child getting used to having a pet or loving animals will always grow up with valuable attributes which are produced by this unique relationship only reserved for the four or two legged friends.
Having a family pet teaches respect, kindness and sharing as well as the added bonus of alternative entertainment. Ask a child to go to the park, to play football or to swing on the swings and the novelty may wear off, but ask them to come out with the dog and their energy seems unending. The animal ~ child relationship expands their minds to having a friend and also acts as a bridge between how they view the world towards others. It is one of the easiest ways to educate a child in the world of interaction.
Many children will adopt a mothering instinct over the pet, and find comfort petting and stroking it,(in itself a great process of building up calm and secure feelings), some will view it as their own personal friend, something they relate to because in their mind it belongs to them or they can talk to it with no fear of anything but unconditional love in return. Very few children who grow up with pets will become spiteful or cruel towards animals as their own pet will always be in the back of their minds in the event of meeting a new one. The wide variety of pets do not have to stop at dogs or cats, animals do require work and in a normal household may not be a practical addition, but even a goldfish or rabbit, or a hamster can be a suitable alternative. Of course there is also the ability now to take children to animal parks and farms, which proves a great learning experience; if owning your own pet is not a feasible option. There are even websites where owners who need their dogs walked advertise and this can provide exactly the same excitement in a child's life even though it is not their own for most of the time.
Pets and animals encourage children to talk, a child even before they can string sentences will often chat in their own way to a pet or be able to say the names of a favourite animal in a story book. They are not only reactive to their environment but they can also provide a learning experience in their fascinating habits and antics and every parent will know a child's laughter and smile will be one of the greatest gifts and rewards.
Nothing equals the sight of a child running with a dog in a carefree safe environment and a dog or cat can sometimes be the companion to a shy or less confident child encouraging them to talk and express themselves. But the greatest advancement is the development of training animals to help handicapped or emotionally abused children. Charities and societies have been set up to breed and train suitable animals to work with some families to help children in their everyday life and it has proved to be a success. This is also true with some care focussed on the elderly.
There are boundaries of course, animals are in effect wild and have not the ability to sometimes know their strengths or can react in their own way if something upsets them, so care and vigilance is always a requisite. Even the most placid animal sleeping may not be too happy to be woken by an over enthusiastic playmate. Animals need their space too so just piling lots of them into a smaller home thinking it will end up as a harmonious area can be a fragile balance to maintain. A pet should not be bought in haste either, a Christmas or birthday gift may sound a great idea at the time, but care and attention of a pet will become part of the necessary routine and so discussion and pre-thinking is also important.
Children find comfort in relationships and in a world where time is precious and always under pressure, a pet can become a great source of development for a child to understand and find a simple source of happiness and even relaxation. Respecting animals is a lesson for all to learn but this is greatly enhanced if the learning process is a practical one and a pet will always reward back but whatever we teach our children will always be repeated in their thoughts later in life and respect and kindness are fundamentals for everyone to learn.