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Emma, Her Dog And Her Mother's Naivety

Updated on December 4, 2013

Should a five year old child be given a dog?

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The disposition of noble dogs is to be gentle with people they know and the opposite with those they don't know...How, then, can the dog be anything other than a lover of learning since it defines what's its own and what's alien.


Just recently, a friend asked me if she should get her five year old daughter a dog. As her daughter has been such an excellent master to her virtual dog (She picks up after him. She feeds him. She bathes him. She takes him to the virtual vet when he is sick.), she believes that Emma would be more than capable of taking care of a real dog. I asked my dog shy friend if she would be able to handle being this dog’s master. In turn, she replied that Emma would only be interacting with the dog. My friend, she claimed, would only be the dog’s legal owner. Trying not to laugh, I informed her that Emma, though a sweet, dedicated young lady, wouldn’t be able to take care of the dog all by herself. She would need her mother’s help. Emma’s mom was floored.

Every time I hear that a young person is going receive an animal as a Christmas or birthday gift or as a reward for being so responsible, I always shake my head. Since the dawn of time, children have told their parents that they want a pet, will take care of said pet without fail and that their parents will never have to lift a finger. Within a very short span of time (days to months), the child has grown tired of caring for their animal friend and has turned the pet over to their parents. Disappointed parents must then decide whether to keep their new charge or to return it from whence it came. Shelters are overcrowded thanks in part to parents who think too highly of their child’s abilities.

Returning to Emma, or more specifically her mom, I was asked to further elaborate on my view. By saying that Emma would need her mom’s help, was I inferring that Emma was incapable of taking on responsibilities and thus hadn’t been properly raised? To my hyperventilating friend I said that I liked and/or loved her little girl, but that I wouldn’t have been able to take care of another living creature at five. I reminded her that I was eleven when my middle brother and I convinced my mom to let us have a dog and that we both failed miserably and had our mom take over. Yes, Emma was an extraordinary child, but she was still a child. If she still needed her mom to tie her shoes for her, she would definitely need her mom’s help raising a dog. My friend continued to disagree. Still, our conversation ended amicably. She said she appreciated my input and would tell me what happened next. I wished her luck in making this decision. We left it at that.

Dogs (animals in general actually) are wonderful living things. They provide their owners and anyone who comes in contact with their cuteness with such immense happiness. If you’re having a bad day, your dog will know it and won’t stop trying to make you feel better until they see you smile. My dog was my world and my greatest joy. However, pets are a lot of responsibility even for adults. They require care, time and money and aren’t for the selfish. They need to be walked, fed, trained, bathed, loved and a million other things. You are their owner. All decisions to be made rest completely on you. Unlike virtual pets, they do not stay contained in their colorful electronic box. When you mess up, you aren’t given the option to reboot or have a “do over.” Raising a pet is tough, but it’s worth it.


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    • LowellWriter profile image

      L.A. Walsh 8 years ago from Lowell, MA

      I agree with you both completely. There are such benefits to owning a pet. However, they are a lot of work and not something for a child to take sole responsibility of.

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      The rewards as you say are great and so are the responsibilities but if you do get a pet you get far more out of the deal than you put in. There is nothing quite like the welcome greeting that you get from your dog when you return home. As for a five year old there is no way a five year old is ready or capable of shouldering such a responsibility nor would it be fair to either the child or the pet.

    • profile image

      Mother of two and a dog 8 years ago

      My two sons wanted a pet so badly, now, I take care of our puppy more than they do. Though they love our family pet very much, they did promise to care for the puppy all by themselves. Even a 12 and 10 year old cannot be fully responsible for an animal, no matter how hard they have tired. I love our dog so much, but it takes a family to care for a pet not just a little child. I would tell your friend to get Emma a pet only if she can help take care of it.