Kids and Pets!
Some of the best memories of my childhood are the ones involving my pets. I was 9 when I got my first dog and 14 for my first set of cats (they were siblings). There are studies that show children who were raised with pets are less likely to develop certain allergies. April 29th is National Kid and Pets day. In honor of this day, I would like to discuss kid safety around pets (or vise versa – pet safety around kids). Accidents can happen even with the most trustworthy child and pet. Teaching both your child and pet proper manners with the other is essential. I will break these tips down into children guidelines and pet guidelines. But before I do that, two items to remember: 1. You are the adult and it will always be your responsibility to properly care (feeding, exercise, etc.) for the pets. 2. Regardless of the age of your child and when you got the pet, your pet still needs some quiet, alone time with you. Don’t forget to give them individual attention.
- Remember a healthy pet is a safer pet. Keep your pet up-to-date with yearly wellness exams, vaccines, and intestinal parasite screenings. Keep them on year-round flea and tick prevention. Also, keep them well-groomed with brushing, bathes and nail trims.
- Don’t assume that you can skip normal safety precautions just because a breed is supposed to be “good with kids.” I’ve seen a lot of different breeds and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly out of each breed. Proper training and socializing is imperative to having a good dog. “Sit”, “stay”, “down” and “leave it” are vital commands.
- Create boundaries for your pet. Example 1: Dogs are not allowed in the kitchen – and children must only eat food in the kitchen. This simple rule can save little hands and faces from getting accidentally bitten because the dog was trying to eat the food. Example 2: Cats are not allowed in the crib / baby areas. Heat-seeking cats may want to cuddle up to the baby who (if young enough) can’t move away and have difficulty breathing.
- This is sort-of a continuation of number 3. Have an area strictly for your pet. Crates are great for dogs. It has the quality of a den that their ancestors would appreciate. I had a lab who’s crate door was always open and when she wanted her alone time, she would go in there and stay there for however long she wanted to and then come back and join the rest of the family later. Providing a safe area for your cat can be tricky. If you have the ability to provide them with their own room that is great. Otherwise, keep in mind cats love heights. Giving them a quiet area of the home that they can rest high off the ground (where children can’t reach them) is a nice alternative.
- Don’t allow your dog on the couch (while you are holding the baby or the child is sitting there) or in the child’s bed. Our Leader of the Pack blog discussed this can be a sign of a more alpha rule. You don’t want your dog thinking they are in charge of your child.
- Don’t forget to prepare and watch your pet for any additional babies that you may have. Even if everything went well the first time, remember your pet will be older and may not be feeling as well as they did with the first one.
- Hopefully, you’ve taught your child to never approach and talk to a stranger (human) – they need to understand the same thing should be done with animals. Also, you should still teach your children the proper way to approach animals when they do meet an animal. A.) Ask the adult with the animal for permission before approaching. If the owner says it is okay. B.) Reach out your hand with palm facing up and gently move it towards the animal and allow the animal to sniff before touching the pet.
- Always pet an animal gently. No pulling or tugging. Never from behind. Do not touch the animal’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth, paws, tails or genitals.
- Don’t make loud noises or sudden movements around animals.
- Teach your child that it is not okay to hug or kiss pets – especially dogs. Hugs and face-to-face contact can be very threatening and a display of dominance. This is something most dogs don’t like even when adults do it. But whereas adults tend to be bigger than the dog, a child might be the same size or smaller and the dog is more inclined to tell the child they don’t like that in the only way they know how, and that is with a quick snap.
- Teach children how to properly handle smaller pets – never squeeze them too tight, drop them, fall on them, or pick them up too fast.
- Never allow young or small children to walk your dog. I’ve seen too many accidents where the child has been pulled down because the dog is stronger than the child or the dog has gotten away from the kid and the dog has gotten hurt. I believe that is more traumatic than the child not getting their way because they want to walk the dog.
- Teach children to never bother animals while they are eating, sleeping, or tending to their young.
- Teach children to never take a toy or bone away from a dog.
- Don’t allow your child to play tug-of-war or chase-me games with a dog.
- Teach the child to leave the crate alone. No playing close to the crate when the dog is inside it. No playing inside the crate. No sticking fingers or hands in the crate. Maybe explaining that the crate is like the dog’s own bedroom and the dog doesn’t like to share will help the child understand why the dog needs their own space.
- Teach children that if the dog is getting too rough or excited, they must stand still like a tree (but with their arms down at their side) until the dog gets bored and calms down.
Teaching children to love and respect pets can be one of the best lessons you can pass on to your children. Making sure everyone involved is safe is an excellent standard to live by.