Top 5 tips for child safety around pets

Playing with cats, dogs, and other pets provides children with a unique way to learn new skills, develop social relationships, and recognize that other creatures have needs, too.

Many pets tolerate small children quite well. But even a gentle animal can bite or scratch when provoked. Once your child becomes old enough to grab at tails and whiskers, any pet may lash out in fear or self defense.

Supervise children around your pets, and don’t leave them alone together until the child is old enough to understand proper handling skills. When your child is ready, talk about good pet safety habits.

Pet safety rules
Here are five pet safety tips to review with your child:
  1. Always ask an adult before approaching an animal you don’t know. Some dogs and cats just aren’t friendly to new people.
  2. Pets don’t like surprises! Use a quiet voice and make sure the animal sees you before slowly putting your hand out to pet it.
  3. Leave animals alone when they’re sleeping or eating.
  4. Keep away from animals that are anxious or excited. Step back if a dog starts barking at anything, like a squirrel or a person through the window.
  5. While it seems counter-intuitive, teach children not to run or bike away if they’re being chased by a dog, unless they are within reach of a safe escape. Stop and be still until the dog goes away or help comes. If the child can, put the bike between him or her and the approaching animal.
Pet owners and visiting children
If you’re a pet owner, protecting your pet and protecting children go hand-in-hand. Don’t allow your pet to be put in stressful situations that might cause it to nip or scratch. Watch out for teasing and rough treatment, and give your pet a safe place to retreat from kids who may be overexcited or over-zealous with their attention.

Lastly, when visiting friends or relatives, leave Fido at home. An unfamiliar environment with lots of  people, noise, and activity can agitate and excite the most loving of pets. Plus, consider that other visitors may have allergies, a general fear of animals, or simply may not appreciate the licking, jumping, barking, and begging that will likely occur.