You may hear people say that pets cause allergies, that pets may harm young children, and that pets leave a big mess in the house (accidents and dander). While some of these are partially true, the main reason to have a pet is to benefit a child’s way of learning how to handle animals, how to show love, how to play, and how to know the boundaries of another living thing. First-born children can learn major life lessons from having a pet around.
Children with a pet in the house are less likely to have allergies, asthma, and fear of dogs/cats/animals in general. They are more likely to be empathetic, loving, understanding, playful, happy, comforted, understood, and learn to care for another living thing. Pets teach us about responsibility and fun, especially puppies and dogs. While they are a lot of work to house train, obedience train, and to “chew” train (as in, what not to chew!), the benefits of having a pet are truly boundless. Those who have dogs specifically are less likely to suffer from depression or other unhappy moods since a dog is basically like a 3 or 4-year-old child. They have an innocence about them, they’re always happy, always aim to please, and most dogs like to be near and to be pet/played with. That alone can turn someone’s bad day the other way. I know there have been many occasions where I’ve felt lonely or been in tears where hugging and talking to my dog helped cheer me up because all I wanted was to know that someone cared. I didn’t want words or the ever-common “It’ll be ok”; I wanted something that helped me feel like I mattered. And dogs have that simple ability.
While some breeds of dogs are very friendly and tolerant of children, there are many others that are grumpy, too large, or too “guard dog”-esque to be trusted around young children. A lot of thought needs to go into consideration when deciding on a pet. If you are expecting or have younger children, breed is a major concern because your little ones will pull and tug on dog ears, tails, feet, and face. You want a dog that will not mind these behaviors or they need to be trained to have their extremities tugged on by you and given praise and treats when they behave well. Starting grooming procedures while still a puppy is a great way to start this. Brushing teeth, clipping nails, cleaning eyes and ears, bathing, grooming, etc. If you start these habits young and are adamant about them, you will have success with even training more aggressive breeds.
Cats tend to stay to themselves, although most cats should probably be de-clawed if you have young children as a precautionary measure. If you feel that is too inhumane, then just declaw the front paws so the cat can still protect itself with its hind claws if need be. A child could have their eyes scratched and permanently damaged if a temperamental cat were to take a swipe at a child for trying to play with the cat and unintentionally being too rough. Accidents happen, but it’s best to make sure it’s unlikely a child will get injured around house pets.
It’s best that if a child is around a pet that they are supervised, for both the child and the pet’s sake. Accidents can happen so quickly and you want to let the pet know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Praise is your best ally here, so praise your pet when it is interacting appropriately with your child. Tail wagging is a good sign of a positive interaction with dogs (I’m not really a cat person to know the “happy” signs). If your pet is baring its teeth, lunging, has its back hair standing on end, these are all signs of a dog on-edge and it needs to be told “no”. When the pet is showing proper behavior around the child, praise it, talk with it, and tell it what a good boy/girl it is with the baby.
Try to include your pet in as many family activities as possible, especially if you have a newborn. This is hard since the first weeks are spent so busy with baby’s feedings, diaper changes, and other activities. Try to sit on the couch with baby and have your pet sitting next to you on the couch, petting him/her and praising for any positive interaction with the baby. Pet the animal while you’re holding the baby so your pet doesn’t try to get into an attention competition with the new addition to the family. Eventually with the right guidance and discipline toward your pet, your new addition will be welcomed into the family by your pet and you can rest easy knowing they have a budding relationship that will only grow stronger as each of them age and grow up together.