Raising children with pets is beneficial to your child as it teaches responsibility in caring for the needs of a living creature. Having pets also plays a part in teaching children about compassion, empathy, and kindness while simultaneously teaching them to respect animals and nature. Whether you are an expectant parent or a parent of small children you will be happy to know that raising children and pets together is indeed possible.
There are certain precautions, however, that must be taken to assure baby and pet safely coexist. Here are some tips that new parents can follow to assure harmony in the home.
1. Always supervise baby when a dog is in the house.
Try to keep your baby at a higher level than your dog as many dogs see a baby on the floor as a littermate to roughhouse or as prey due to the baby’s small size. For this reason, a parent should never lay a baby on the floor near a dog—large breed dogs especially– and should absolutely never exit the room leaving baby unattended. Using doggy gates or shutting the dog in a separate room while baby is playing on the floor, along with constant adult supervision, is vital to preventing tragedies.
2. Keep pet feeding area away from disturbance, such as in a laundry room, mud room, or basement.
An animal is territorial by nature, especially with food. This can cause even the most gentle dog or cat to strike out if disturbed while eating; in fact, it is the number one cause for dog bites. To prevent tragedies teach your child to never touch but to leave the pet alone while it eats. Keeping the feeding area in a quiet, remote place helps prevent problems.
3. Teach your child to never run up to or pet a strange dog.
Babies and small children are naturally drawn to animals but a strange dog may not react well to your child’s sudden approach and could bite out of fear. Teach your child to never run up to a strange dog but accompany them to ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Let the dog sniff your hand before petting it and then show your child how to gently pet the dog on the back, never in the face or on the head.
4. Teach your child how to properly handle an animal.
Your small child may see your pet as a stuffed animal and may not realize that his or her play is too rough. Don’t allow your child to carry a cat or a dog if they are unable to do so safely. Show your child how to pet the animal gently and never allow your child to pull ears or tail, or hit the animal. Especially, never let them ride on, sit or lay on the pet.
Taking simple precautions from the very beginning allows for children and pets to live and grow together in a safe environment. Raising children with pets is a wonderful opportunity to teach, nurture and delight a child–and they’ll have fond memories to last a lifetime.
LaDene Mayville is the author of
Hallie the Harvester Ant
She is a freelance writer and has three grown sons.
Photo credit © Shawn Low