Helping Kids and Pets Bond: 5 Do’s and Don’ts


The big moment has arrived -- it’s time for your pet and your child to meet each other. Whether you’re welcoming a new baby home to meet the pet you’ve lived with for years, or you’re bringing a new animal home to meet your older child, there are going to be some growing pains.

Here are some tips to help you keep the peace between your two loves and to get them to establish a tight bond.

Make Sure You Supervise Interactions

Babies should not be left alone with pets, under any circumstances. There is too much opportunity for things to go wrong. 

When your child and pet are in a room together, you should be there too. You should also serve as the go-between for their interactions with each other, especially during the getting-to-know-you phase they’ll be going through initially. 

Don’t Rush It

Sometimes a bond isn’t instantaneous, and that’s okay. You have to be patient.

Pets can be hesitant around children, particularly if they are rescued from a shelter and have had bad experiences with kids in the past. Teach your child to be slow in their movements when approaching your pet and to treat the animal gently.

Likewise, if you have a bigger dog, some children might be intimidated by its size. Have your dog sit down during the first introduction with your small child, so the size is less of a factor. Don’t force your child to interact until they are comfortable.

Keep Your Child’s Bedroom Door Shut

If you want your child to like your new pet, you’ll want to follow this rule. Nothing can drive a wedge between a child and a pet quite like seeing that the new animal has peed all over or chewed apart the child’s favorite toys and possessions.

By teaching your child to keep their bedroom door closed, you’ll be protecting their items from pet-related damage and eliminating some animosity your child might have toward your animal. 

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Teach Your Child About Boundaries

Everyone needs some time alone once in a while -- even pets. If you see your pet purposely retreating from your child, or going out of their way to avoid them, let your child know that the pet needs some space at that given time. 

Young children can be overly enthusiastic when it comes to pets, and completely oblivious as to when a pet is no longer enjoying their over-the-top affection and attention. Some animals may eat up all this attention, while others will try to run from it.

It’s important for you to watch your pet carefully to see how it seems to be coping with your child and to teach your child to recognize the signs of when your pet needs some alone time. 

Intervene When Needed

If you see your pet acting anxious around your child, you have to react quickly. Don’t ignore those signs, or assume it’s something your pet will just have to learn to deal with. 

Being proactive about a stressed-out animal may help prevent your child from being nipped or scratched, which could put a serious damper on how they feel about your pet.

Use Rewards

Both pets and children love bribes. When your pet sits there patiently and allows your child to pet it, let your child give your pet a treat. When your child shows respect for your pet’s boundaries, make sure you praise your child for being so responsible. 

Lead By Example

If your child sees you playing roughly with your pet, they’ll want to do the same. They won’t understand that you and your dog may have enough trust in your relationship that you can playfully horse around together without threat of danger. They’ll just think it looks like fun and clumsily try to imitate it.

They may not understand the fine line between playful behavior and feeling threatened. That can lead to dangerous circumstances for your child, and put your pet in a difficult situation. 

When your young child is watching, it’s best to keep all movements with your pet slow and careful. That will teach your child how they should act around your pet. 

Likewise, refrain from playful wrestling with your child while your pet watches. That may lead to confusion or reactive behavior from your pet. 

Watch What Kind of Breed You Get

If you’re bringing a new pet into your home, you have to be a responsible pet owner and do some research. Find a breed that interacts well with children.

If you choose one that generally isn’t comfortable with children, all the tips in the world might not help the bonding process. 

Let It Happen At Its Own Pace

You want your fur baby and your human baby to love each other. But sometimes, laying off the pressure a little and letting things happen naturally is the best thing you can do.

Before long, if you teach them to treat each other with respect, they’ll love each other as much as you love both of them.

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