Many of my favorite childhood memories include my first dog, Maggie. I enjoyed learning about how to care for an animal and having a friend to play with. However, my mom once shared with me that she had a great deal of anxiety about bringing pets into a home with several small children.
Although growing up with pets has shown to provide developmental benefits, many parents hesitate to bring a new pet into the home or are concerned about the safety of their newborn around an existing pet. Unfortunately, accidents may occur when families are not prepared and equipped to keep pets and kids safe in the home.
Luckily, there are many organizations and resources available to help families bring a new pet into the home as well as how to navigate integrating a newborn into an established family with pets. For example, an organization called Family Paws says: “Our goal has been to increase safety and reduce stress in homes with young children and family dogs. We seek to decrease the number of dogs surrendered to shelters due to preventable behavioral problems and common conflicts.” They provide webinars and programs to assist families prepare for dog and toddler or baby relationships. Likewise, Best Friends Society has resources to help cat and dog owners.
Experts say that kids and pets can coexist and help each other with the supervision and assistance of parents and caregivers. Best Friends Society says that it starts with finding the right pet and teaching your children the skills to keep them safe. Just as adults and pets need to learn to communicate with each other, it is essential that kids and pets receive help to communicate, respect, and navigate boundaries with each other.
In the end it is all about helping pets and kids respect and listen to each other. Parents can provide guidance and supervision to keep all parties safe. Check out the resources below as you prepare to guide your children and pets in interacting safely. As always, please seek help from professionals when you have concerns.
Resources for kids and pets:
Stay Safe: Kids and Dogs: A guide to share with your kids about how to (and how not to) play with a dog.
Family Paws: Parent Education
Kids and Pets: Families with Children Adopting a Dog, Cat or Other Animal
Dogs and Babies
Cats and Babies