Children and Pets: How to help them get together

Children and pets can be an unbeatable combination

Children and pets can be an unbeatable combination. We, as adults, need to make sure of some things before we can declare this true.

Many times adults will bring pets home thinking that “a child needs a pet.” They go to the pet store and get starry-eyed looking at all the multitude of pets to be offered and end up bringing home a totally unsuitable pet for their lifestyle, or their children’s needs.

One thing that vastly determines pet selection is the age of your child. Take your basic knowledge of how children act at any given age and pair it with a few simple precautions before going to get a companion for the family. The examples below are geared toward dogs and cats, two of our most common four-legged friends.

Children and Pets: How to help them get together

Making Introductions

When you get a feline or canine friend, or if you already have one when your child is born, you need to do a few things:

First, introduce the two gradually. Children only know how to treat a pet from watching us, and by being taught proper handling and what to do and what not to do. When a small child and a puppy or kitten come together in the same household, obviously there need to be some ground rules.

The dog or cat, although it does have some powerful weapons attached, should not need be forced into a position where it might be tempted to use those claws or teeth. Bottom line for children under 3 — they need to be supervised continuously with any pet until they learn how to treat a pet properly.

Teach your child to treat animals with respect. Children need to know that they must treat animals well, just as they are taught to treat their siblings and other people with kindness. Never allow your child to hit a pet. There is nothing that will force an animal to use its natural survival instincts more quickly than to be struck. Children need to learn to use the same rules that apply to two-legged friends in this regard.

Teach your child how to pick up a pet. If you allow your children to pick up your pet, make sure that you have shown them how to properly pick up and hold the little ball of fluff. Or better yet, say, “Mommy and Daddy will pick up (insert pet name), and then you may hold him/her for a little while.”

All too often, a child is not shown how to hold or pick up a dog or cat. Just like babies, pets need to be picked up a certain way. Both dogs and cats should be picked up with two hands — one supporting the front (under the chest), and one supporting the back (under pet’s bottom). Teach your child to handle the pet gently. If you teach your child at a young age how to hold, love, and care for a pet, they will have friends for life.

When selecting a pet for a child under 5, remember that pets grow much faster than humans. That cute little canine, so small and bouncy, is really going to grow fast in the next six months.

When people choose a dog, for instance, that is a large breed, they will most likely be around 20 pounds or so by the time they are only three months of age. At 20 pounds, a puppy does not know it can hurt a child just by jumping up, licking, and waggling around happily. We must teach the pet as well as the child — pets should be trained to know that jumping up is not acceptable.

If you have an existing pet, supervise your child with it. The key here is caution, supervision, and patience. Pets can be kids’ best friends when we just take the time for a little forethought, training, and teaching.

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