Pets and kids
Many companion animals will get along with children. Families with kids have welcomed pets into their homes with success. It takes planning and consideration to ensure that introductions go smoothly, children know how to treat animals, and kids and pets live in harmony.
How to choose a pet
Before deciding on a companion pet, it is important to consider all aspects of your life, including your lifestyle, finances, and living situation. It would be best if you also thought about the future and current makeup of your family. This will help you decide what kind of pet to get.
If you want to teach your children about pet ownership, then getting a pet is the best way. However, adult supervision and responsibility are required, even if your child shares the daily care of the pet.
Adopting a pet for a family that includes children is a great way to learn about the animals available, bring your kids to meet them, and assess who would be the right fit for your home. RSPCA staff will let you know which animals are best for your family and which animals have previously lived with children. Shelter staff can let you know which animals will not be suitable to live with kids.
Basics of Children and Pets
It is important to supervise children with companion animals. Make sure cats and dogs are able to escape from children, adults, or other animals. If they feel overwhelmed, your pet can retreat to an area if it wants to.
A pet can be a great way to teach children compassion, empathy, and basic animal behavior. You can teach children to leave dogs alone while they are eating, sleeping, or excited. You can train your kids to recognize signs of fear or stress in animals. These signs may not be as obvious as the growling and hissing that adults are used to seeing, but they could include yawning in dogs or blinking frequently in cats.
Encouraging kindness and respect and teaching children how to interact and handle animals safely will create a mutual bond and help everyone live happily and safely.
How to introduce a puppy or dog
Introduce a new puppy or dog to your family. It is an exciting and special occasion, but it can also be overwhelming.
If you want the dog to come and investigate, it will most likely do so out of curiosity. Children should be taught to speak slowly and softly and to stroke the dog gently on the shoulder. Do not touch the top or tail of the dog. The supervising adult can reward the dog with food treats for its calm behavior. This helps the dog to associate children with positive things. Then, give the children a different activity to distract them from the dog.
It would be best if you did not force any interaction between children and dogs. Let the dog learn about the children at its own pace. It’s better to avoid an interaction with either the child or dog if they are both overly excited. Early interactions are more likely to be successful when everyone is calm. Read more about how to introduce puppies and dogs to children in our Knowledgebase.
Making the right introductions will set up your children and pets for a successful relationship.