Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | November 17, 2009

Introducing Children & Pets

Scotty the Cat - not the Marshall

Although pets make great companions and teachers for children it is important that such relationships be developed properly and safely.  Not all children are comfortable around pets nor are all pets comfortable around children.  However, with the right approach this dynamic can be transformed.  Friendships between children and pets can lead to some of the most positive relationship and bonding experiences of a child’s early life. 

So whether it is the pet, child, or both that is not accustomed to the other, how you proceed to establish comfortable relations between children and pets is critical to the speed and longevity of success.  The guidelines below can help in this process:

When a new pet is brought into the home it is critical that the family not overwhelm and over-stimulate the pet.  Recognize that the pet is entering a whole new world which can be frightening and unsettling at first.  Allow the pet ample space to adjust, as well as time to learn the routines of the house and the individual household members. 

Establish rules and routines early, yet allow for some leniency in the beginning as the pet adjusts to the varying novelty of the rules.  This does not mean that you should allow your new dog on the couch if the rules are “no dogs on the couch” but it does mean that patience and repetition should be applied in teaching the rule.  Thus, if the dog does plop itself on the couch – correct immediately but gently.  Ultimately you want to build a trusting relationship where the pet looks to you for direction – out of respect and not fear.

Similarly there is a big adjustment period when a new person is brought into the household where pets reside.  Whether it be a new baby or a visiting child it is important to allow the household pet time and space to adjust to new little beings in “his” or “her” home.  Do not force the introduction if the pet is hesitant – let them approach the baby or child when they are ready.  Always closely supervise pets and babies or children who are unfamiliar with one another.  Speak calmly and reassuringly to the pet, communicating that the “intruder” is welcomed with confidence. 

During initial introductions monitor your pet for any signs of fear or anxiety, if the pet is uncertain about the “new person” continue to monitor and supervise all interactions until the pet adjusts comfortably to the household addition.  Play with your cat, walk your dog, etc. in the vicinity of the new family member, allowing your pet to associate the new person with positive aspects of the pet’s life.  Have ample treats on hand to reward your pet for appropriate behavior around the baby or child. 

Although a new family member typically means less time for the pets, do make an effort to not let your pet’s feel abandoned.  This association of abandonment with the new baby will not benefit the relationship between pet and baby.  Do your best to maintain important routines of exercise and play with your pets.

By the way, my name is “Scotty”, named after my favorite law enforcement officer, and as a “cat in waiting” here at the Second Chance Shelter I thought I would mention that my laid back personality makes me a good candidate for a household with children…come meet me today!

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online: www.secondchancehumanesociety.org.  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.

 

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