How to Introduce Pets & Kids

The combination of pets and kids can be a fantastic partnership. In fact, pets are often the first level of “parenting” for many.  Though once kids come into the picture, the blending of pets and children can be difficult, especially for dogs. Breed, temperament, location, and more can all play a big role in whether a pet is the right fit for kids.

We reached out to Amy Sachs of the Pixie Project, a non-profit animal adoption center and rescue for some tips and information on how best to introduce kids and pets.

Photo credit: Egidio Maurizio

What are some of the benefits of having a pet(s) in the home?
Having pets in a home helps everyone! For kids, having a pet can teach compassion, responsibility and selflessness. The whole family can benefit from the activity that comes with walking or running a dog, playing with a cat and just getting active with your pet. Having a pet also allows children to become comfortable and confident as well as appropriate with animals as they will meet dogs and cats throughout their life and we want to make sure those kiddos aren’t scared of our furry friends! Our adopters tell us that their new furry family member has brought LOTS of love into their lives.

If bringing home a new baby, are there steps to help prepare your pets?
There are a great number of things people can do to prepare a family pooch for the arrival of a baby. The key is START EARLY. Desensitization to the smells, sights and sounds of a baby is key. We want the transition to a home with a child to be slow and methodical so bringing out the stroller and giving treats, bringing out the rattle, even playing cd’s of babies crying played softly and paired with an awesome chewy toy build a positive association with all things baby for the dog.

There is an enormous amount of information on this subject and there are even classes you can take to start preparing early and get more guidance on the subject. The Humane Society of the United States has lots of great information.
However, the best thing you can do is socialize your pooch to kids! The ultimate key to success is simple… kids = treats! You can’t lose with that formula!

If you have kids and are considering a new pet, what’s the most important thing to consider?
The most important thing to consider is, does this pooch LOVE my kids? I know that sounds funny but when a doggie meets its potential family, if they have children, I don’t want to see any ambivalence or shyness or fear. I want to see a pooch that wiggles and wags and jumps and spins and will very happily take yummy treats.

How can parents know the breed they choose will be compatible with kids?
Don’t be married to breed, be married to temperament! Sure, do herding breeds herd, yes, some do. But some don’t, and others are the perfect family pets. Labs are great, but some aren’t great with kids, and some terriers are. We can certainly assume certain breed traits from certain breeds, but when deciding on a dog for your family with kids the most important thing is to find a dog that fits what you are looking for in temperament.

What are some common reasons families often are forced to find new homes for pets?
Families are often forced to find new homes for dogs for reasons that have nothing to do with the dog. Job change, divorce, move etc. Yes, sometimes it is a lack of compatability with the kids in the home that is why socialization and positive exposure to kids for both puppies and adult dogs is so important.

Where can parents get information about care for pets before significant changes in the home (baby, move, another pet)?
The ASPCS and Humane Society of the United States have great information on preparing for changes in a home with a pooch and kids!

What is the most important piece of information you think families should know?
Families DO NOT have to purchase a puppy to have compatability with a doggie and their children. We get SO many wonderful doggies that have lived with kids and love them so much and just had the unfortunate fate of losing their families. Taking your kids through the process of adoption is a way to educate them and bring them into the world of socially conscious decisions and ways to make this world a better place.
BE PATIENT…work with a rescue or shelter or trainer you like and allow them to help you along this process. And if it takes a few week or a month to find it that is all worth having the next 15 years of love and happiness.

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