There are few things as beautiful as the bond shared between your child and their pet. Bringing home a family pet is such an exciting milestone, one that creates a lasting memory that withstands the test of time. As a pet owner, you’re sure to do your homework to understand how best to care for your new family member. In doing so, consider your kids and have conversations about how they can make their new pet most comfortable. Being open and honest is the first step to being safe. No matter the age, kids have to be educated on how best to protect themselves while respecting their pets to ensure everyone can live in a cohesive, healthy, and happy environment.
The Importance of Safety
You may think bringing home a pet is harmless, and for the most part, it is. Teaching kids pet safety is about being proactive and learning the skills to handle the worst-case scenario. At the same time, teaching your kids how to be safe with their pets, can help them around other animals who maybe aren’t as well trained. At the end of the day, it’s best to be prepared for something that may never happen than to be caught off guard in an emergency.
Just like humans, pets have emotions and boundaries. Pet safety comes from a place of respect and understanding for your pet. As a responsible pet owner, you’ll want to show your children how to treat your pet with dignity and recognize how they communicate with us. Taking the time to pay close attention helps promote safe and healthy interactions.
Ways You Can Keep Your Pet Safe
Before involving your kids, there are some measures you can take to ensure that your pet is well accounted for. For starters, your pet should be up to date on all immunizations, vaccinations, and prescription medications. This includes preventative meds for issues like heartworm, fleas, and ticks. Keeping your pet healthy can also help you keep a healthy and clean home.
When getting a family pet you’ll want to consider purchasing pet insurance. Between kids and pets, your home is bound to get a little crazy at times, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, on top of their regular checkups and daily medications, accidents happen and your pet can get hurt or sick just like the rest of your family. Knowing how to use pet insurance can help your pet get the care they need, from something as simple as allergies to procedures as big as surgery. Pets need the vet, the same way your family needs the doctor. It’s also key to listen and pay attention to the warning signs of a pet in need. A pet in pain may grow increasingly irritable and has the potential to lash out. In this instance, it’s important to help your children understand when to keep a safe space from their pets, as they may need the distance to heal and return to their lovable selves. Pet insurance ensures you can get that care for your pet without taking a serious financial toll.
Then, there is obedience training. Owning a larger animal requires more training. Your pet must understand important basic commands. This includes sitting, staying, lying down, and coming to you when called. These are critical for pet safety, as they allow you to have a much stronger handle on any situation your pet may be in. Having commands for your pet establishes trust between the two of you, and can improve your confidence and ability to handle whatever may come your way.
Finally, if you’re ever worried about the possibility of your pet getting out of your home or yard, you could look into how pet microchips work. Microchipping can be a helpful solution to track them in the event they come loose. It’s helpful to know that there is a way in which you can locate them if they ever roam too far from home.
Tips to Teach Your Kids
● Remind Your Kids to be Gentle
Whether it’s a simple interaction like petting or it’s full-on playtime, you’ll always want to encourage gentleness. Behaviors like pulling, tugging, or squeezing should be avoided. When petting your furry friend it’s best to focus on their back and stomach, rather than their head and face. Encourage your child to gently rub or pat these areas. You can also pay attention to signs of welcome from your pet; if your dog shows their belly to you it’s a sign of trust. Finally, remind your kids it’s best not to lay or sit on your pet to demonstrate respect for their boundaries.
● Stay Away From Your Pet While They’re Eating
Some animals can feel very protective over their toys or food items. It’s important to recognize that those are their personal belongings and that those items are not to be messed with. Remind your kids to give your pet plenty of space when they are eating, drinking, or playing with a new toy. It can be very tempting to want to share or interact with them at these times but if your pet feels encroached upon or as if there is a threat of their items getting taken away, they may feel unsafe. The best time to play with your pet is when they bring the toy to you and initiate playtime.
● Teach Your Kids How to Perform Your Pet’s Training Commands
Teaching your pet basic commands is a critical step to pet safety. You’ll want to be sure that your kids are involved and knowledgeable in how to perform these commands. Consistency is one of the most important aspects of training your dog. Everyone in the family has to be on the same page on how to call the cues for them to work best. With that, you want your child to feel prepared to handle any situation with their pet. It’s a good rule of thumb that young children under the age of five should always be supervised when spending time with their pets, but as they grow and get older, you can’t be with them every second of the day. You’ll want to feel confident that they can take control of any situation with the skills they’ve acquired, to keep themselves and their pet safe.
● Pay Attention to Your Pet’s Body Language
While children learn most social cues through their growth and interaction with humans, they actually can come to learn similar cues from their pets as well. This is because pets communicate almost entirely through body language. So, as your children interact more and more with their furry friends, you’ll want to have open discussions about what your pet may be attempting to communicate. For example, a low growl or hiss is likely a sign that your pet needs space from others. At that moment you’ll want to teach your child to back away, or that they may need to use their commands to remove the pet from the situation they are in. Especially for dogs, it’s also helpful to pay attention to their tail. The tail can communicate a lot about how your dog is feeling. For example, a tail deep between the legs can be a sign of stress, anger, or sadness, while a wagging tail could mean happiness or playfulness. Part of owning a pet is being alert and in tune with them and their needs and you’ll want to encourage your kids to look out for this early on.
● Encourage Your Kids to Use Pet-Appropriate Treats
Finally, you should encourage your kids not to feed your pet human food off their plates. While this can be fun and silly, it can also be troublesome. Certain human foods pose a threat to animals and are not good for them to eat as they can lead to choking or illness. Second, it blurs an important boundary and can cause your pet to perform disruptive behaviors like begging for food or jumping on countertops for more. It’s better to use pet treats when they want to give their pet a little something extra.
Bringing home a new pet is so exciting for everyone in the family. While there is a lot to keep track of and it certainly takes some time to get into a routine, it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming or scary. With the right knowledge and an open mind, your pet can acclimate to its new home easily. Sharing that knowledge with your kids and involving them in the process will only make the transition even smoother. Remember to have open conversations with your kids about your pet’s boundaries and their means of communication. Encourage your kids to be gentle and welcoming, and to always treat your new pet with respect. Then you can create a harmonious environment and you will have a trusted furry friend for life.