Almost everyone has seen adorable videos of children and animals interacting together. And just as many have heard stories of times when either a pet or a child has been hurt when an interaction didn’t go the right way. It is up to both human and pet parents to help children as well as pets learn the necessary skills to keep relationships between animals and the children in their lives as positive as possible.
Preparing Your Pet to Live With Children
In many cases people have pets in their home before they have children and they bring their new baby home to a place where a pet has already been there for a while. Because newborns are vulnerable, and pets, especially dogs, can be territorial, your pet will need some schooling in order to understand how to be gentle with a baby and play safely as the baby grows.
It can be hard for a pet to adjust to a new family member, so it is important to allow them to acclimate as gradually as possible. If your pet is not trained in basic obedience skills, it is important to enroll them in any necessary courses as soon as possible. Be sure that they know and respond to commands such as sit, stay, and down. Make sure they have a safe place they can access that will give them a much needed break from the children and adult humans in the house when they need it.
Before the baby comes home, allow your pet to smell an article of clothing, such as a hat, that the baby has worn. They will then recognize the baby as a member of the family that belongs rather than an intruder. Keep in mind, however, that regardless of how much effort you put in to preparing your pet, proper supervision is always necessary between babies or young children and pets to protect both from any behavioral slips.
Preparing Your Child for a New Pet
As many children start to get old enough to express their own opinions, they may indicate that they want a pet of their own. Whether that pet is a dog, a cat, or another animal, it is important that they are able to understand their pet’s limitations and their role in making sure that pet is properly cared for. Although the ultimate responsibility for caring for a pet lies with their adult owner, giving a child age appropriate supervised, pet responsibilities will help him in to feel like a part of your family’s pet experience. It will also help your pet, especially a dog, see your child as one of his masters, rather than a rival.
Observing Animals Together
Even if you do not choose to have a pet in your home, it is important that children learn to respect animals in their surroundings and appreciate them. You can take the first steps by just watching the animals that are in your own yard, a local park, or a humane zoo or rescue center. Even if you don’t have a lot of opportunity for first hand interactions, watching movies or other videos that show interactions between humans and animals is helpful. Making and filling outdoor bird feeders or watching rabbits or squirrels run through your yard can help your children learn that animals are an important part of the world, just like they are.
The Positive Side of Kids and Pets
There are times when kids who are not properly educated about pets may be too rough with a pet, hugging it too tight, or pulling ears, or some other similar treatment. But when both children and pets are taught to respect one another and any necessary boundaries, the results can be very positive. Children raised with pets are often more cooperative and willing to share, and are stronger overall emotionally, including having a positive self image. Pets too learn to be gentle and protective of children in their lives.
If you have questions about how to care for your pet, submit our website contact form below or call our Santa Rosa location at 707-595-3834 or our Rohnert Park location at 707-206-9000.