While buying a new puppy or kitten before your youngest child has hit five or six is unadvisable, often times new parents still have pets from when they were childless. Dogs and cats often live over a decade, so Fido or Kitty are frequently still around when babies begin to arrive. This can lead to a complicated dynamic. Dogs can’t read your impulsive and unpredictable toddler, and your toddler is completely oblivious to doggy-language. At best, this can lead to a pet who tolerates your child’s more annoying behaviours, at worst, it ends with a crying toddler who’s been bitten or scratched.
Dogs and Toddlers should never be left alone, and it doesn’t matter how good natured your dog is. We call it the terrible two for a reason; toddlers are gifted at irritating those around them: parents, teachers, and pets. And while you know better than to bite your child when they hit or kick, biting the small human who is yanking your tail probably seems like a very reasonable reaction to your pooch. The fact of the matter is, it isn’t your child’s fault if they get bit, and nor is it your dog’s fault. You’re the parent to both your toddler and your dog, so it’s your job to make sure everyone gets along.
During these years, the best thing you can do is try to teach empathy and gentleness during supervised pet-child interactions. Otherwise, keep your dogs and toddler apart. Prevent your child from touching your dog while they’re eating or sleeping — bites are most common during these times. And, make sure your dog can always escape your child. A cornered dog is a frightened dog. A frightened dog is a dog that’s likely to bite. Whether it’s into their kennel, outside, or mommy and daddy’s room, your dog must have a place to relax when they’re tired of your child.
Cats and Toddlers can often coexist a bit better. Depending on your cat’s personality (and whether they’re an indoor cat or an outdoor cat), your kitty will likely have no problem simply avoiding your child or escaping them when annoyed. Some cats are more aggressive, though, and they may be more inclined to scratch. If you have a more aggressive cat, the best solution may be to set aside a part of your home as a toddler-free area. Your bedroom or office may be a good choice. Give your cat everything he or she needs to be happy and just shut the door to keep the kitty in and the kiddy out. One final thing to consider is making sure your cat’s litter box is easily accessible to your pet and completely out of reach of your child. After all, toddlers will likely struggle with the difference between the sand box and the litter box.
While it may not be advisable, pets and toddlers sometimes have to coexist together, and many Canadian families manage to make it work. Depending on your pet and child, you may need to put in a little thought or a lot, but rest assured that it’s possible to keep both your furry-pal and your toddler happy. And, in a few years, your toddler will be a preschooler. At that age, they just might end up as good a friends with your pet as you are.