Toddlers & Pets

Many of us harken back to our own growing up years when we think about bringing a pet into the home as a "friend" for our toddlers. Some families had the pets before the children came along, so the transition felt much easier than bringing a pet into the home after the child starts toddling around.

Who Came First?

When a pet is already part of a family, then the child grows with the animal and training is a natural part of day-to-day life. The child recognizes that the pet is part of the whole group and something that has been in his or her life always. Consequently, adjustments are relatively minor and teaching the child and the pet about mutual respect and proper behavior happens without much effort.

On the other hand, the decision to bring a pet into the home after the baby turns a year is quite another story. There are many considerations prior to bringing a pet home, and certainly there will be the need for vigilance and training as the days go by. Most young children who have not had a pet in the home are uncertain of what is expected of them. They can be rough or they may be fearful. It can take time for everyone to adjust to the changes in the home.

The Value Of Pets For Children

Research shows that having a pet can help to increase the emotional stability of children as well as providing an opportunity to teach responsibility to little ones. Having a pet in the home with a toddler can be a rewarding and fun experience. There are some pets that are better suited to family life with a toddler than other pet choices. Choosing the right pet for your family and home arrangement is important for the sake of all concerned.

Choosing A Safe Pet

The first, and most important consideration is the choice of a safe pet for your child. Animals of the rodent family, such as ferrets, chinchillas, hedgehogs, as well as monkeys, are not especially safe for children. Reptiles, like lizards, turtles, and snakes, while suitable for older children, are not recommended for toddlers. These animals can carry salmonella bacteria, which can be harmful to children. If you do choose to have a reptilian pet, talk with your vet or your health care provider to determine the precautions you should take.

Gone To The Dogs...

Dogs are often a safe choice for children, but here again, not all breeds are suitable for a home-style relationship with a little tot. Some breeds are excellent with children and other breeds can be too large or aggressive. Equally, toy breeds may not be the best choice for your home because a toddler can be rough with a small animal and does not quickly understand that the animal can be hurt easily. Breed does not always indicate disposition, yet there are general guidelines and understood behaviors for most dogs. Careful research into the breed's disposition with children is a wise decision. A sturdy, non-aggressive pet is the best choice.

Training Toddler And Pet Together

Cats, dogs, birds, fish, and small caged animals like hamsters and gerbils, all make good pets for a toddler. Of course, with the smaller pets, the child will need constant supervision and training until he or she learns which behaviors are good and which are not when it comes to treatment of the pet. The bulk of the work is in training your child how to relate with the new family pet. Yet another full-time job for a busy Mom!