Take Paws: Baby Playing With Pets
Introducing your baby to the world has been fun. You've been able to show your baby the sights and sounds of the world they live in — and now your baby is getting ready to explore on their own! By this time your baby is cruising around, holding on to your hands and furniture, or even venturing off without any help. But what happens when the next spot your baby finds to grab hold of is Fluffy's back? Right now is a key time to make sure that your baby and your cat or dog are able to live together. Here are a few ways you can teach your child to safely interact with pets and help your furry family members transition to the toddler who's about to rule the roost:
Teach Appropriate Interactions
For baby: Grabbing, chasing and pulling on pets are all normal behaviors for a child—after all, they do have a living, breathing stuffed animal to play with right there. While this may be normal, it isn't appropriate. It can be difficult for a 1-year-old to understand pet-safety rules, but with repetition, your child will soon learn. Teach your baby to be calm when approaching your pet. Explain that your pet may not like hugs and kisses (pet them on their side instead!), fur shouldn't be grabbed or pulled, and that he or she shouldn't sneak up on a sleeping animal. Work to teach your child to not bother pets when they're eating and stay away from the dog's toys, as some dogs can act territorial with these items.
For pets: You can help your dog know how to act with your baby by teaching Spot to be gentle. Simple commands like "sit," "down," "stay," "come" and "off" can help control interactions. While you may not be able to teach the same interactions to your cat, you can work to make sure that it has room to run away if scared, rather than get backed into a corner.
Everyone Needs Some Space
For baby: Bumps and falls are just part of growing up and testing out new motor skills, but getting pushed over by a passing dog or tripped up by a cat underfoot can make it easier for accidents to happen. Help your baby develop by giving him or her a pet-free area to practice crawling, cruising, walking (and maybe even falling!).
For pets: Establishing a child-free zone can prevent your pet from feeling trapped. This can help your pet relax without being poked or prodded. Let your cat lounge in another room, put the dog outside or set up a gate to separate spaces and let your furry friend get the R&R it needs.
Supervision is Key
Keeping a close watch over interactions is the most important rule to help children and pets live together safely. They should never be left alone when sharing a space. Even if your baby is great with the pets or you trust your cat or dog completely, animal bites or scratches mostly happen in unsupervised or inappropriate interactions.
By teaching your baby and pet about how to live together and making sure both get the space they need, you can set them on a path to becoming fast friends.
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