Are you thinking about adding a new member to the family? No, I’m not talking about another child, I’m talking about a family pet! Research has proven that pets can reduce stress, improve health, and lengthen your life span. When I became a parent, I prepared our family pet for the behaviors of curious children. After the trails and tests we have successfully accustomed 10 year-old Rosie, our golden retriever, with our two boys.
When I became pregnant 6 years ago, giving Rosie away wasn’t an option we were looking into, and thankfully we didn’t go this route. Rosie has taught each of us valuable lessons that triggered a positive impact on our lives. Here are some helpful dos and don’ts on how to get your kids adjusted and friendly to the new family pet.
No matter what the occasion is for welcoming a new pet into your home, there are ways in which every family member will have to adjust. Here are some ways you can prepare beforehand to make it easier on everyone:
- Your Home: Taking time to prepare your home for a new pet can help ensure that you and your family are ready to be responsible pet owners as you welcome a new pet into your life – forever. Pet proofing your home is important because it makes sure that your home is a safe and healthy environment.
- Your Family: Before you bring home a new pet, have a family discussion of what responsibilities each person will have once the pet arrives. As the parent, it is important to prepare both your children and existing pets for the new addition’s homecoming. Let everyone know they are expected to share the responsibilities. Establish house rules to enforce, and be sure the entire family is consistent in using these rules.
- Your Mindset: It’s important that you and your family alter your thought process when welcoming a new member into the family. Dogs, for example, are pack animals and understand their roles within their family due to their strict social structure. As a pack leader, your goal is to establish safety and comfort by making sure that members of your family are higher in pack order than the new dog(s). A dog that understands the strength of their pack leader feels more secure, accepts the rules, and is easier to adjust. The same goes for cats. Cats can be frightened immediately and scratch or bite if children don’t understand the control they are exerting on the pet. Keep in mind that pets may be just as afraid of your children as they are of the new pet.
The Adjustment Period
In order to make your new pet’s introduction to your family go smoothly, understand that it’s going to take a combination of vigilance and some lessons of basic pet-safety rules to keep your children and pets safe.
Although the first few days are extremely important in forming a bond with your new pet, it’s best if you give your children and pets time to adjust to one another. Neither child nor pet recognize each other as family yet, so use caution and monitor their interactions.
Like children, keep in mind that all pets are individual and unique. If you have young children, for example, never leave your toddler or baby unsupervised with your new pet, regardless of how gentle they seem. For example, dogs have difficulty distinguishing a toddler’s ranking in the pack-family dynamics; often confusing them as their equals or of lower rank. There are, however, certain things you can do to help establish a positive relationship between your kids and new family pet:
- Monitor and limit interaction time
- Praise and reward both child and pet for gentle, good behavior
- Protect your pet from children who don’t play gently or follow your rules
- Don’t allow your children to do to pets what you wouldn’t allow done to another person
- Allow for pets and children to explore
- Encourage calm and quiet voices
- Don’t force the new pet to bond – let them take the initiative
The adjustment period should be handled with sensitivity and not taken lightly. Be careful not to make your children, or already existing family pets, jealous by giving the new pet too much time and attention; either party may retaliate by mistreating or punishing the new pet when you’re not around.
To help speed up the adjustment period, be sure that you establish a consistent routine to help your family and new pet know what to expect. A strict routine and maintained schedule will give your kids and pets a sense of security, aiding in both of them to adjust quicker to one another.
Introducing a new furry, fluffy, four-legged member into your family is exciting for everyone. Creating new bonds, understanding responsibility, and learning how to respect personal space are only a few of the lesson learned as your kids adjust and become friendly with their new family pet. Positive reinforcement is the best approach to getting your kids and new pets accustomed to each other as they teach one another the significance of love, trust, and loyalty founded within their new bond.
Guest Author Bio: Maya Rodgers is a pet owner and animal lover. Her family celebrated their Golden Retriever, Rosie’s 10th birthday this year, even though they still think of her as a puppy! She makes a living helping others combat fleas, by aiding in pest consultation at Terminix. Learn more at about her passion and experience at her blog petsandpests.com.