By actively folding our dog, Mr. Happy, and our bird, Diva, into our daily lives, my husband Matt and I hope our daughter will become a compassionate lifelong animal lover and advocate for animal welfare. She is already learning the ropes of responsibility by feeding Mr. Happy and Diva each morning.
We’ve worked to strike a balance between encouraging our child to love our pets and maintaining the well-being of our whole family. Below are a few tips that have proven helpful for managing interactions between our daughter and our pets:
Enforce a Pets-Only Zone. Mr. Happy will retreat to a spot under our dining room table when he needs a break from the action. We worked with our daughter to help her understand that it’s important to respect Mr. Happy’s boundaries.
All Eyes on Active Play. When Mr. Happy and our daughter are in the same room, we put our smartphones away and keep attention on them.
Create Positive Play Opportunities. Each day we find many different ways for our daughter and Mr. Happy to interact. It can be as simple as blowing a kiss, or sitting on Matt’s lap or my lap to toss treats or toys to Mr. Happy. Our daughter’s favorite thing to do is make pretend food platters for Mr. Happy as seen in the photo above. Sometimes our daughter even tries to play hide-and seek-with our dog. While we taught our daughter that there is “no hugging, no kissing, no touching” Mr. Happy without a parent present, we give her multiple opportunities to pet him throughout the day.
Know Your Household Stress Points and Be Prepared. In my home, the weekday pre-work rush and the dinner hour are our stressful periods given the many tasks that need completion. Matt and I are hyper-aware of this challenge, and are both extra vigilant and use measures such as a baby gate to keep our daughter and Mr. Happy separated when needed.
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor toVetstreet.comand other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site,Crayons and Collars.
Kids can be nuts. Add some pets to the mix and the craziness increases exponentially.
Aside from the pet hair and unidentifiable foodstuffs, random stickers and toothpaste stuck to your pants, here are a few telltale signs you’re living with a house of pets and kids:
Nose prints and handprints just below eye level You know how it looks like someone finger-painted clear hair gel on the glass of your windows and front door up to about three feet high, where it abruptly stops? Right. Somebody(ies) or something(s) have frequently had their greasy fingers/paws/noses up against that glass.
The good news is that since it’s below your eye level, you can conveniently ignore it…for a while.
Smelliest garbage can on the block Your trash guys hate you, especially in the summer. Your garbage can has little bags full of litter box scoops or poop-scoop contents. Even if you have small animals, the garbage is often full of shavings, dirty newspapers, puppy pads, cage liners and more. Add a few dirty diapers to the mix and it’s a malodorous recipe. You probably find yourself avoiding putting anything else in the trash and when you do, you hold your nose, throw the trash into the can and run.
An impeccably clean floor It’s a fact: kids are messy, messy eaters. But households with a resident dog typically have freakishly clean floors. The furry vacuum cleaner is better than the most expensive machine on the market. It’s ironic that the kids and pets destroy everything else in the home--but the floor? Pristine.
A less than perfect yard Grass won’t grow in your backyard? You’re not alone. Between the digging, running, jumping, sliding, roughhousing, football games, grass-killing sandboxes and baby pools, you just aren’t going to have a lovely turf. Get used to the bald spots and dog poop land mines and remember you’re making memories. Plus, you’ll have less grass to mow. Yay!
Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
The New Year is a great time to reflect and plan what we would like to accomplish for our pets and kids. Here are just a few goals my family set for the New Year:
We made a resolution to take more walks with our 12-year-old senior pup, Clyde. Our family really enjoys this time together, and it really connects us! We are also planning to take Clyde to the new dog park which opened last year in our town. I think this will be a wonderful learning experience for the kids, as they will see Clyde playing with his friends--some old and some new. And when you think about it, all the same sort of play date rules apply for pets as they do for kids: sharing space, taking turns and welcoming others into the group to play. Visit the ASPCA’s Pet Care section to learn more on how to get the most of your visit to the dog park.
We are also going to start taking Gabriella to volunteer at our local library. Recently, opportunities have opened up for kids to read to shelter dogs. I believe this experience will be extremely fun and rewarding for her and the dogs we get matched up with!
Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a year of celebrating and strengthening that special bond we cherish with our pets and kids.
They may be too young to vote, but children can still make big impressions on legislators and be voices for animals! With new legislative sessions gearing up in D.C. and in state capitols across the nation, there are plenty of ways you can engage and encourage kids who are interested in government and animal advocacy. Check out these fun and easy tips for helping the little animal lovers in your life make a big difference for our furry friends:
Visit your legislators in their district offices. A great way to help children get familiar with the legislative process is by taking them to meet your lawmakers in person. You can find out here who represents your family in Congress and in your state legislature. Then, schedule meetings to speak with them (or members of their staff) about an animal issue important to your child, whether it’s puppy mills or farm-animal welfare.
Attend an ASPCA “Voices for Animals Day.” Bring your kids to one of our events at your state capitol or meet us online for one of our citizen advocacy training sessions. Not only will your child get an up-close look at how laws are made, but you’ll get to meet other parent advocates and learn tips on how to lobby your legislators for stronger animal welfare laws. Plus, you may even get to hang out with some adorable, adoptable cats and dogs! Make sure you’re signed up to receive our advocacy emails to learn when we’re coming to your area.
Join a campaign in your community. Many campaigns can benefit from all kinds of volunteer help. If there’s an important animal welfare issue going on in your neighborhood, spend a couple of hours with your child handing out flyers, knocking on doors or manning a booth for the cause in your community.
Be an e-advocate. Animal welfare bills need your support all year long. Have your child write a personal email to your member of Congress or use their social media account to ask your state senator to take action on a specific bill. Don’t know where to start? We created an informative, colorful, one-page guide on using your computer or mobile device to fight for strong, animal-friendly laws.
Guest blog by ASPCA Volunteer Manager Julie Sonenberg, a mom of one daughter and two dogs in New York City.
Sharing is a tough concept for a toddler. Young children can be naturally selfish and might need to be taught about the importance of taking turns. It’s tough to understand that someone else can use a toy and that you’ll get it back at a later time, and that it’s not socially acceptable (or nice) to forcibly take someone else’s toy. Depending on the child, difficulty with this concept can result in crying, screaming, hitting, pushing or even biting.
Guarding valuable resources is a very natural behavior for dogs, which is why it is crucial for parents to foster good behavior from both kids and pets and to monitor all interactions between the two.
When our dog Dexter gets jealous of our other dog’s bone, it reminds me of my two-year-old daughter trying to grab the toy of a playmate—even if it’s a toy that was never hers to begin with. Both Dexter and my daughter, in their respective situations, feel as though they have a right to that toy and feel a sense of injustice that someone else is playing with it. Although our dogs are okay with adults taking their bone or being near them while they eat, we taught our daughter to leave the kitchen when they are eating and not to pet them when they are chewing on a bone. When she helps feed them, she puts down each of their bowls and walks out of the kitchen, saying to herself, “No be in the kitchen, doggies eating.”
It is extremely important for parents to realize that when a dog growls, shows his teeth or simply freezes, those are warning signs. Recognizing these signs of discomfort is crucial and immediate action should be taken to separate the dog and the child. All interactions should be monitored with particular caution and observation of the dog’s body language.