by Staff Reports
Whether you are bringing a new pet into your family or bringing a new child home to an existing pet family, it is important to prepare for the changes. Your two-legged and four-legged children need to feel safe and secure to avoid unnecessary jealousy and acting out. New additions to the family can feel threatening to a child or pet. Before one arrives, it is important to prepare the family for changes. By taking the time to follow a few simple steps to establish rules and boundaries, you can create a long-term successful, loving and safe relationship for everyone.
Bringing Home a New Pet
Children under 10 are at the greatest risk of being bitten by a dog. Most dog bites to children are by a family or neighbor’s pet. It’s extremely important to teach young children how to safely interact with pets before they reach age five.
Top Causes of Dog Bites
- Disturbing a pet when it is sleeping – older pets, especially, snap when startled from a sound sleep.
- Hurting the dog by pulling ears or tail, poking eyes or jumping on it – an animal in pain will strike at the source of the pain to make it stop.
- Chasing a pet into a corner or confined space – a cornered animal feels threatened and reacts defensively to get away.
- Trying to take a toy away, whether it’s the dog’s or child’s – dogs engage in resource guarding to protect someone from taking their property away. Little children do this too!
- Reaching into the animal’s food dish or taking away food – this is another example of resource guarding and protecting what’s theirs from being stolen.
- Sudden movements or high-pitched sounds – small children amplify prey-drive, especially to breeds with a genetically high prey drive.
- Face to face contact – small dogs especially do not like it when you blow or yell in their faces.
How to Introduce a New Pet to your Home
- Set rules and boundaries for your children. Address any violations or broken rules with the child rather than the pet.
- All child/pet interactions should be supervised.
- Limit the number of interactions until you are sure of how the dog reacts.
- Provide your new pet with a child-free area for sleeping and eating.
- Crate train your new pet and teach your children that the crate is the dog’s safe zone and to stay away.
How to Introduce a New Baby to your Pet
- Never leave baby and dog together unsupervised.
- Reassure your pet when the baby cries.
- Install a baby gate to keep your pet out of the baby’s room. Just like your pet needs a safe area to call its own, so does your child. Start at the very beginning to establish this rule.
- Allow the dog to sniff the baby and get used to the scents associated with the new baby.
- Make sure your pet doesn’t feel neglected and lacking in attention and affection. New babies are very demanding and require a lot of time that the dog is accustomed to getting. Include walks and tossing the ball around as much as possible so pets feel part of the family.
Supervision is the Key for Success
Even if your child is gentle with your dog and your dog is calm and loving with your child, it is important to supervise interaction at all times. It only takes seconds for a child to be injured by a pet that has been accidentally startled or hurt. Children and pets look to you for guidance, so always set a good example for both.