Jul 15, 2022 | By, For Pet's Sake

Strategies for safely introducing animals to children

Are you considering adding a pet to your family? Do your children love animals and constantly want to pet them in public? You might think that pets and children go together easily, but that’s not always the case.

Animals may be scared of children because of a traumatic experience in the past or because they haven’t seen many children in their lives. Children may appear threatening because they don’t respect an animal’s boundaries, playing too rough or handling them incorrectly. If an animal lashes out at a child, it can diminish a child’s confidence and may make the child overly cautious in the future.

All of these scenarios are examples of why it’s important to introduce children to animals carefully so that everyone feels safe and comfortable. Be sure to follow these guidelines when coordinating meetings between a child and a pet.

Tire out your pet first

Exercising your pet will allow them to blow off steam and get exhausted before meeting the child. If you try introducing your pet before they’ve had a good romp, they might think it’s time to play and they’ll act too rough with the child. This can be dangerous, even more so for babies.

Approach slowly

Don’t rush anything here. Start at a safe distance, and keep your pet on a leash if they tend to lunge or run around when excited. Maintain control of the situation the whole time so that you can gradually allow your pet to approach the child in a comfortable, calm way.

Don’t grab or hang on the animal

This is a message directly for kids. Meeting a pet is exciting and fun, but a hug or a playful grab can actually be more threatening than welcoming in the animal kingdom.

Don’t force it

If either the child or pet seems unwilling to meet, that is perfectly fine. Try again on a different day. See if you can get your pet more tired. Make the introduction in a different place. Pushing the limits of a pet or child can increase the chances of a negative interaction and future trauma.

Always supervise the interaction

You should never leave a child and pet alone in a room, even if you believe they’ll get along together. The first few meetings should be heavily controlled by adults, and then subsequent interactions can be supervised loosely with an adult nearby to intervene if necessary. 

Remember that crates and nurseries should be off-limits to everyone, especially during the early stages of this new relationship. Boundaries are important, and you don’t want the pet getting angry or the child getting scared or hurt. Don’t allow children to disturb the pet around their food or toys or while they’re sleeping. Animals might lash out if they feel that a new person is encroaching too much on their resources or personal space. Finally, try to limit any nervous energy because animals will pick up on that energy and may even imitate it.

Have a question about pet health? Want to become the best possible pet parent? Find helpful tips, reminders, and insight to giving your furry friend the best possible care with For Pet’s Sake! Learn more at drdevonsmith.com.