Kids and Pets Under the Same Roof: A safe and happy coexistence is possible!
Maintaining order – and your sanity – in a house shared by kids and pets may seem overwhelming, but it is doable with a little patience and practice. Plus, fostering positive relationships can go a long way in keeping your kids safe and pets happy.
Here are a few of our top tips for keeping the peace and creating lasting friendships among your two-legged and four-legged little ones.
Supervise all interactions between kids and pets
Never leave children alone with pets – even gentle ones. Animal behavior can change quickly in stressful situations or when their person (you!) leaves the area. Monitor both your child’s and pet’s behaviors when you’re all together to notice signs of trouble. Make sure you have a designated safe area (such as a crate or gated room) for your pet to retreat to in times when you can’t supervise interactions. Here, your pet will feel comfortable eating, playing, or sleeping instead of acting out in defensive aggression.
Teach your child to be gentle and polite to pets
You wouldn’t let your child pull another kid’s hair or ears, or climb on them like furniture – the same rules go for dogs and cats! Yes, it’s amazing how much our pets seem to tolerate from the crazy, sporadic behavior of kids, but it’s no excuse for rough playing or painful handling. As mentioned above, even the friendliest pets may act out in defensive aggression by biting if they are excessively stressed out. Teach children the importance of gentle handling and polite petting. You can even practice using their favorite stuffed animal!
A calm and gentle demeanor is especially important around strange pets. Teach your children that not all pets love them and to ask permission before approaching strange animals.
Give em’ some space!
Sometimes pets need some alone time or extra space to relax and feel comfortable. This includes during meal time or while enjoying a treat, playing with their favorite toys, sleeping, or are sick or injured.
Learn to read your pet
Pets communicate feelings of fear, anxiety, and aggression through their body language first. Dogs bark and growl; cat hiss. Other signs that pets may be feeling uncomfortable or irritated include dilated pupils, freezing in place, an arched back, or hair standing on end. Surprisingly, even wagging of the tail is not always a friendly and happy gesture. Dogs can wag their tails when they are nervous or being assertive.
For more information:
If you feel like your pet is stressed, fearful, or shows signs of aggression around your family members, we encourage you to contact our Behavioral Veterinarian, Dr. Leslie Sinn. You can learn more about Dr. Sinn’s services and how to schedule an appointment with her at our practice on our website.