You want your child and Fido or Fluffy to be best friends, but how to insure their safety? Kids and animals can either be a wonderful mix or a recipe for disaster. Follow these simple rules for safety with children and pets, in order to have harmony in the house.
- Teach your child to ask the owner before approaching an unknown dog. Practice saying “May I pet your dog please?” This is a good tip for adults as well.
- Teach your child how to meet a new dog. First, hold out fist with thumb tucked so the dog can smell, but not grab fingers, then gently pet under the chin if the dog is willing (petting over the head can sometimes be threatening to a dog). They should never assume that a dog wants to be petted. Some dogs don’t like hands coming at their face.
- Teach your child how to “stand like a tree” when a dog approaches them. Stand tall and freeze with arms by their side (more about that here).
- Teach your child to respect, not fear animals. Animals can read our body language and sense when we are fearful and sometimes become aggressive. They should lightly touch, especially with cats (no Elmyra from Bugs Bunny). Also no hugs or rough grabbing, as pets usually don’t appreciate that.
- Allow the child to feed your pets. The pets will have a positive association with the child. For dogs, the child can have the dog sit and wait before eating.
- Allow children around pets without supervision. The child or pet could become seriously injured. I have seen many tiny puppies with broken legs due to being dropped from arms. Also, any animal has thepotential to bite with the right circumstance. This is real life, not a fairy tale like Peter Pan with Nana the dog as nursemaid.
- Go up to an unknown animal, especially if no owner is present. Period.
- Go up to an injured animal that might bite if painful and could have unknown diseases, such as rabies. Get help from someone trained to handle animals (veterinarian, wildlife expert, humane officer).
- Approach a dog from behind or when sleeping. Dogs don’t think it’s funny to be surprised and might bite if startled.
- Approach a dog when chewing on a bone or toy or when eating. The dog might see that as a threat and bite, just like some people feel like biting when someone asks for a bite of their ice cream cone, ahem.
- Run when a strange dog approaches. Dogs are likely to chase and injure a running child (they look like prey) and often don’t like quick movements. See “stand like a tree” above.
- Follow a pet to its quiet area in the house. Pets often want time and space to relax and get away the hustle and bustle of the house. Let them.
Hopefully these tips will help improve the safety between children and pets in your home. It is possible to have a peaceful home, at least with the fluffy critters (that doesn’t mean the sibling rivalry between humans will magically disappear). For more useful information and fun illustrations, please visit here.