For many families, the first baby is a Fur Baby — that loveable cat or dog that was your first child. Having a pet in the family can be a wonderful experience, especially for children. It teaches them love, caring, responsibility and they have a cuddly, cute housemate. However, while we may treat our pets as part of the family, it’s important to remember that pets are animals, and with animals, come safety guidelines and rules. So whether you have a pet or are considering adding one to your family, we have some tips for pet safety with babies to keep everyone safe and sound.
Know the Approach: So much about pet safety with babies revolves around teaching children how to approach animals once they are old enough to do so. You never want your little ones to bother or come upon an animal while it’s eating, sleeping or chewing on a toy; more importantly, teach your children to never try to take anything from a pet’s mouth. Running away from a pet, especially a dog, is not a good solution. If a child runs, the dog naturally will chase
Gentle Does It: Children, especially when they’re young and excitable, want to roughhouse with their pets. Hugging, tugging on ears, pulling on tails, prodding and poking are behaviors you want to discourage. Rather, show your children where and how to pet an animal. Teach them to always ask the owners as even the most well-behaved pet may not be child-friendly. Additionally, show them how to put their hand out, palm up, so the animal can sniff them. Focus on petting the animal’s back or belly, avoiding eyes, ears or face. For young children and babies, you want to be fully involved in the situation as babies like to grab and pull what their chubby hands can reach.
Keep it Clean: You know not to touch dog poop or play with litter boxes but to your little one, it’s all fun and games! Teach your children not to touch or play with litter boxes and if you have young children, keep the litter box where they can’t reach it. Clean out litter boxes on a regularly basis. If your pets go to the bathroom in the backyard, scoop the poop so that babies and children don’t play or traipse in it. While pets bring a lot of love into our homes, they also bring a lot of fur, fluff and dander. Be conscientious about vacuuming and sweeping up hair frequently. Lastly, be sure to let your pet eat in private; put away the bowl when feeding time is over; you don’t want your little one eating dog kibble.
Out of Sight: In the lovable story of Peter Pan, the Darling children have a huge, lovable, furry dog, Nana, who is their nanny. However, that’s the world of fiction and Disney movies, not real life. As a parent, you never want to leave your child unattended with your pet. This is especially important for crawling or walking babies. In general, you don’t want to put your baby on the floor while the dog is underfoot. Instead, wait until the dog is outside or close off a “dog-free” zone so that both Baby and dog have freedom and room to roam.
Pets are a wonderful, loving member of a family, but it’s important to keep in mind that they cannot express their feelings or concerns like a human can, so we have to be the responsible ones. As a parent, teach your children how to respect and behave around them and it will be a relationship your family will treasure.
Animal League America. (2015, January 19). “Kids and Pet Safety Rules” Retrieved from https://www.animalleague.org/blog/tips/life-with-pets/kids-and-pet-safety-rules/.
Ben-Joseph, E.P. [Reviewed by] (2019, February). “Staying Safe Around Animals.” Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/animals.html
Dogtime. (n.d). “10 SafetyTips for Children Who Live with Dogs.” Retrieved from https://dogtime.com/how-to/pet-safety/39999-10-safety-tips-children-live-dogs