Introducing a Pet to Young Children

Introducing a Pet to Your Young Children: Six Tips to Ease the Transition

Have your children been asking for a pet? Are they jealous of their neighbor’s dog, or do they race to pet their friend’s hamster when they visit? When you finally take the plunge and bring home a new pet for your family to care for and love, our tips may come in handy as both your new addition and your kids handle the inevitable changes.

Remind your children to be patient with their new pet. The new kitten may take some time before she becomes friendly with them, and the new puppy may need some time before he acclimates to the noise and boisterousness of children’s play. It will take time for everyone in the house to adapt to each others’ needs, rhythms, and limits.

Make sure your new pet has some quiet time. Dogs may love playing with a room full of excited children, until they become overwhelmed and tired and need a bit of time in their crate or their dog bed. And cats may need to be separated from the fray for a few days before they’re ready to enter it. Allowing cats a safe space, perhaps a spare room, that allows them solitude, is healthy for them.

Allow your new pet to initiate contact, not the other way around. While kids are likely to want to rush into a game of fetch with a new puppy, or will want to cuddle that new kitten, let your new pet explore their new home and decide when they want a part of the action.

Keep an eye on both your new pet and your children for a few days. Look out for any aggressive or irritable behavior you see. If a dog becomes skittish or one of your kids decides to pull the cat’s tail, don’t hesitate to involve yourself in order to stop the behavior that’s making an animal tense.

How can your kids help? Showing your kids how to measure the right amount of food for a fish or a guinea pig can be a great way for young kids to learn to care for an animal. And letting your kids join you in walking the dog can show them how to maintain control of the dog and the leash.

Is it time to train? Teach your children the training techniques you’re using with your new pet, so that the whole family can use training as a way of bonding and setting up a healthy dynamic.

Has your family welcomed a new pet? Tell us a little bit about how you introduced them to the family, in the comments section!

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