Updated: Mar 30
Bringing a pet into the family is never an easy decision, no matter what the circumstances; but you may be wondering what the pros and cons would be when you have a child with a disability. I don't have all the answers, but here are a few things to consider.
-Are you wanting your child to be the primary caretaker of the pet? (i.e feeding it, letting him outside to use the bathroom...etc)
-Does your child have other small responsibilities around the house?
-Are you willing to take the time needed to teach your child how to properly take care of a new pet?
-Has your family ever had a pet before?
Ok, so now that you've asked yourself these questions, let's go through some of the pros!
-Most children with autism thrive on routine and set schedules. The cool thing about pets is that they do too! My German Shepherd knows that his dinner is at 6PM, and if he doesn't have food in his bowl by then, he starts moving the empty bowl around until we pay attention and fill it up. My brother in law has autism and when he was in school he was in charge of the family lab. As soon as the bus dropped him off, he had a list of things he knew to do in a specific order. He let the dog outside, then fed her, then made himself a snack. It was an after school routine that he had been doing for years!
-Pets, especially dogs, are amazing companions. I always had cats growing up, but when I met my husband and he was allergic, we got a dog, and eventually a second to keep the first one company during the work day. Pets can help soothe anxiety, help with stress, and their fur is amazing for children with sensory issues.
-Dogs need exercise and so do kids! Having to take the dog out a few times a day forces your child to also get out in the fresh air and run around and play, especially if there are no siblings around their age to play with.
My sweet babies, Lottie & Loki
So those are some of the benefits of having a pet for your child, but what are some of the cons? Are you willing to overlook or work through these?
-Pets, depending on the type and breed, can sometimes be expensive. As the adult, you know that you will have to be in charge of the vet visits and keeping up with vaccines and so on. Is this something that you can afford, or want to afford? A pet becomes a part of the family and should be taken care of as such.
-Allergies. Definitely make sure no one in your family is allergic to the pet you plan to get. There is nothing more heartbreaking than bringing a new pet into the family, finding out about allergies, and having to give them back :(
-Training. Dogs are not usually just naturally well behaved. They need to be trained to be good dogs. You can easily spot a dog who has been trained by his owners, over one who has not. Having a well trained dog, especially as an indoor pet makes life a whole lot easier and less stressful for everyone. But as the adult, you will need to be in charge of making that happen, whether it be by you or a trainer.
Good luck on your pet endeavors,