• Kids love pets and vice versa. Close supervision of early interactions is critical to maintaining this relationship.

    Kids and Pets are a great combination. Many adults fondly remember their first childhood pet, and it can set them up for a lifetime of animal companionship. Yet pets can also present certain dangers to children, who may not know enough to keep themselves safe. For this reason, it is important that you monitor the interactions of kids and pets. Here are some things to think about:

    • Pets and Infants: If you welcome a baby into a family that already has pets, be sure you introduce your pets to the infant slowly over time. It is important that they become familiar with this new family member under your constant supervision. As the child grows older, realize that he or she won’t have a full grasp on what the pet really is, whether it is a cat or dog or anything else. This means they may not respect the pet’s space the same way adults do, something you should watch for and prevent. Additionally, try to keep any pets that are naturally aggressive from interacting too closely with an infant or smaller child.
    • Teach Proper Bite Prevention: One of the greatest dangers that pets pose to children, most notably dogs, is pose to children “biting.” Teach your child the signs that a dog is being aggressive or moody and let them know that they should not play with them in these situations. Be sure your child knows to react to a biting dog by curling up and protecting their hands and face while calling for help. If you are worried about dog bites, supervise your kids’ interactions with dogs and teach your child to use your dog’s stop-commands such as “stop” or “sit.”
    • Keep Toys Separate: Remember that your child’s toys will not be safe for your pets to play with and vice versa. Especially when your kids are young, you should keep their toys separate.
    • Good Pets for Kids: If you’re buying a new pet and have young children, you should take all of their abilities and needs into consideration. Children under twelve or so will not be able to take on much responsibility for a pet such as a cat or dog, but can manage very well with pets like goldfish for example. A guinea pig is a good pet for young kids since it is gentle and easily handled. You shouldn’t let a child shoulder the responsibility for a pet alone though, it is up to you to make sure the pet is receiving the proper care.
    • Interacting Alone: Once a child is older than four or five and has demonstrated adequate understanding of the behavior of family pets, it is alright to let them interact without close supervision. This is only if the animal has demonstrated a good demeanor as well. It is up to you to make sure the dog is trained not to jump up, bite, or be aggressive with children. When first allowing them to play together, try games that don’t require much physical contact, but rather ease your children into more intimate play with your pets.
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    Education and slow and supervised initial meetings will help kids and pets interact safely.