By actively folding our dog, Mr. Happy, and our bird, Diva, into our daily lives, my husband Matt and I hope our daughter will become a compassionate lifelong animal lover and advocate for animal welfare. She is already learning the ropes of responsibility by feeding Mr. Happy and Diva each morning.
We’ve worked to strike a balance between encouraging our child to love our pets and maintaining the well-being of our whole family. Below are a few tips that have proven helpful for managing interactions between our daughter and our pets:
Enforce a Pets-Only Zone. Mr. Happy will retreat to a spot under our dining room table when he needs a break from the action. We worked with our daughter to help her understand that it’s important to respect Mr. Happy’s boundaries.
All Eyes on Active Play. When Mr. Happy and our daughter are in the same room, we put our smartphones away and keep attention on them.
Create Positive Play Opportunities. Each day we find many different ways for our daughter and Mr. Happy to interact. It can be as simple as blowing a kiss, or sitting on Matt’s lap or my lap to toss treats or toys to Mr. Happy. Our daughter’s favorite thing to do is make pretend food platters for Mr. Happy as seen in the photo above. Sometimes our daughter even tries to play hide-and seek-with our dog. While we taught our daughter that there is “no hugging, no kissing, no touching” Mr. Happy without a parent present, we give her multiple opportunities to pet him throughout the day.
Know Your Household Stress Points and Be Prepared. In my home, the weekday pre-work rush and the dinner hour are our stressful periods given the many tasks that need completion. Matt and I are hyper-aware of this challenge, and are both extra vigilant and use measures such as a baby gate to keep our daughter and Mr. Happy separated when needed.
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor toVetstreet.comand other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site,Crayons and Collars.
Kids can be nuts. Add some pets to the mix and the craziness increases exponentially.
Aside from the pet hair and unidentifiable foodstuffs, random stickers and toothpaste stuck to your pants, here are a few telltale signs you’re living with a house of pets and kids:
Nose prints and handprints just below eye level You know how it looks like someone finger-painted clear hair gel on the glass of your windows and front door up to about three feet high, where it abruptly stops? Right. Somebody(ies) or something(s) have frequently had their greasy fingers/paws/noses up against that glass.
The good news is that since it’s below your eye level, you can conveniently ignore it…for a while.
Smelliest garbage can on the block Your trash guys hate you, especially in the summer. Your garbage can has little bags full of litter box scoops or poop-scoop contents. Even if you have small animals, the garbage is often full of shavings, dirty newspapers, puppy pads, cage liners and more. Add a few dirty diapers to the mix and it’s a malodorous recipe. You probably find yourself avoiding putting anything else in the trash and when you do, you hold your nose, throw the trash into the can and run.
An impeccably clean floor It’s a fact: kids are messy, messy eaters. But households with a resident dog typically have freakishly clean floors. The furry vacuum cleaner is better than the most expensive machine on the market. It’s ironic that the kids and pets destroy everything else in the home--but the floor? Pristine.
A less than perfect yard Grass won’t grow in your backyard? You’re not alone. Between the digging, running, jumping, sliding, roughhousing, football games, grass-killing sandboxes and baby pools, you just aren’t going to have a lovely turf. Get used to the bald spots and dog poop land mines and remember you’re making memories. Plus, you’ll have less grass to mow. Yay!
Guest blog by ASPCA Volunteer Manager Julie Sonenberg, a mom of one daughter and two dogs in New York City.
Sharing is a tough concept for a toddler. Young children can be naturally selfish and might need to be taught about the importance of taking turns. It’s tough to understand that someone else can use a toy and that you’ll get it back at a later time, and that it’s not socially acceptable (or nice) to forcibly take someone else’s toy. Depending on the child, difficulty with this concept can result in crying, screaming, hitting, pushing or even biting.
Guarding valuable resources is a very natural behavior for dogs, which is why it is crucial for parents to foster good behavior from both kids and pets and to monitor all interactions between the two.
When our dog Dexter gets jealous of our other dog’s bone, it reminds me of my two-year-old daughter trying to grab the toy of a playmate—even if it’s a toy that was never hers to begin with. Both Dexter and my daughter, in their respective situations, feel as though they have a right to that toy and feel a sense of injustice that someone else is playing with it. Although our dogs are okay with adults taking their bone or being near them while they eat, we taught our daughter to leave the kitchen when they are eating and not to pet them when they are chewing on a bone. When she helps feed them, she puts down each of their bowls and walks out of the kitchen, saying to herself, “No be in the kitchen, doggies eating.”
It is extremely important for parents to realize that when a dog growls, shows his teeth or simply freezes, those are warning signs. Recognizing these signs of discomfort is crucial and immediate action should be taken to separate the dog and the child. All interactions should be monitored with particular caution and observation of the dog’s body language.
Do you have any pets? If so, please tell us about them.
Yes, we have four cats. Fluffles showed up near our house last year and we could not find his owner. He and Greystoke, one of our other cats, are best friends now. Zenzie is solid black and very opinionated. Momo is a Sphynx. A lady gave him to me while I was doing chemotherapy. He would lay with me and keep me warm when I felt bad. He would act crazy and make me laugh also.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy helping with any foster animals we may have. I also like to draw and do crafts.
Why did you decide to help animals in need with your Make-A-Wish wish?
I used my Wish to help animals because I love them so much. The whole point of the wish is to make the child happy. Every time my parents and I talked about what I should wish, this one made me the most happy. It is the right wish for me.
How can other kids your age make a difference for animals?
Kids my age can show their siblings and friends that it is a good thing to be kind to animals. They can tell a parent or teacher if they see animals being hurt. They can also ask their parents if they can volunteer at a local animal shelter.
Ready or not, the holidays are here! Last week, my interfaith family kicked off Hanukkah, and this week we will dive into the joys of Christmas. Our home is filled with the smells of two wonderful traditions.
Regardless of the nature of your holiday plans and celebrations, there is one important detail that you cannot overlook: keeping your pets safe and happy with your guests.
The holidays are a very stressful time for pets, especially when young children are around. Holiday treats, loud noises and added excitement can present problems for our furry friends. An enthusiastic child mixed with a stressed pet is not always a good combination.
Below are three tips to keep the joy in your holiday season as you entertain young children:
2. Don’t be afraid to speak up: As a pet parent, you have a responsibility to keep your pet and those around your pet safe. If a young houseguest is negatively interacting with your pet, you should firmly and politely address the problem with the child and his or her parent. If the behavior continues, it may be best to remove your pet from the room.
3. Have an action plan: Before hosting guests this holiday season, it’s important to create a safety contingency plan. Prepare a safe, quiet room in your home where your pet can retreat—this room is a guest-free zone. Baby gates also help keep the peace. If you choose to take your pets outdoors, ensure that they do not remain outside for long periods of time. If the weather is too cold or uncomfortable for you, it’s not suitable for your pets, either.