All pets, whether they are kept indoors or outside, should be in good health, show no evidence of disease, and be friendly toward children. The following suggestions benefit your pets and may also help protect young children from both illness and injury:
If you have a dog, train and prepare it for contact with children. Many dogs will try to dominate children because of their small size. Also, some children aren't well-behaved around animals. These things put children at risk for injury. To help prevent such problems with dogs and other pets, you can:footnote 1
Be especially careful when bringing a newborn home where a pet has enjoyed "only-child" status. Animals can become jealous, aggressive, and defensive about trying to protect their place in the family. Also, newborns don't act, smell, or sound human, which may confuse pets. The weak, high-pitched cry of newborns may also sound like prey to animals. Even a very loving, well-behaved pet can quickly transform into predator mode with a newborn.
Try the following to prepare your pet for sharing its home with an infant:footnote 1
Before the baby is born
After the baby is born
Also, teach children how to react if they are confronted with an aggressive pet. The following apply specifically to dogs, but some concepts can apply to other household pets:
- Humane Society of the United States (2010). Introducing your pet and new baby. Available online: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_babies.html.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2012). Safety around animals. Available online: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Safety-Around-Animals.aspx.
- Pickering LK, et al. (2008, reaffirmed 2011). Exposure to nontraditional pets at home and to animals in public settings: Risks to children. Pediatrics, 122(4): 876–886.
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