As a mother and also a pit bull owner, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve navigated that question. While sometimes I let it irritate me, I have to admit that it has given me a great outlet to not only dispel lots of myths about my breed of choice, but also to talk a little bit about kid/pet safety. Kids and dogs CAN live together harmoniously and bites and accidents can be prevented with some basic knowledge and a little bit of extra vigilance. Below are just a few rules that we live by in my household.
- SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE!
I really can’t stress this one enough. My two in the picture above are as thick as thieves and I have no doubt in my mind that neither one would intentionally hurt the other. I still don’t leave them alone in a room together EVER, not even for a few seconds. I’ve heard too many dog bite stories that begin with “When I came back into the room…”. Don’t even give this an opportunity to happen. Set up some type of system in your house than can separate pets and kids when you’re not able to supervise, like closed doors, crates or baby gates. Don’t ignore this advice if you are a small dog owner; anything with teeth can seriously injure a child, and even Chihuahuas have chompers.
- Teach mutual respect from the beginning.
From the first moment that you’re able, teach your children how to respect the animals in your home. A little one tugging on puppy’s ears or tail may appear cute but could be a recipe for disaster later on down the line. The same applies to the dog; a furry friend giving themselves free reign to lay down on top of your toddler may seem sweet but also allows the dog to exert dominance. Show children how to properly handle pets and make sure that Fido isn’t allowed to jump and romp all over baby either. Teaching children simple obedience commands that the dog knows already is helpful as little ones become verbal as well. Setting up one or two restricted areas in the house may also be helpful in setting boundaries; my son’s room, for example, is a “dog free zone” in our house.
- Don’t ignore warning signs.
This one is a biggie. Being involved in animal rescue, I’ve heard many stories that start with “Well our dog tried to bite our little one, but she had her hands in his food dish so it was really her fault…”. Yes and no. While behaviors like playing with the dog’s food, ear/tail pulling, etc are inappropriate and need to be corrected ASAP, no dog with a stable temperament should attempt to bite your child no matter what. If the family dog is growling at, snapping at or showing otherwise aggressive behaviors towards any human family members, these are big warning signs and need to be addressed by you or a trainer as soon as possible to prevent something possibly much worse from happening.
There are many more issues to address when it comes to kids and dogs living harmoniously under one roof, but these are just a few of the biggies for right now. And before ending this post I have to add one more tip; I know that little kids and little puppies seem to go together like PB & jelly, but PUPPIES CHEW! That’s just what they do people. Until you are able to train them to do otherwise, puppies have a physical need to chew and those little teeth can feel like razors. Giving your puppy the boot for taking a long gnaw on your kiddo’s toe is totally lame, so if you’re not comfortable with the possibility that your 2 year old might potentially get nibbled on like a squeaky toy (at least for a few weeks), then consider adopting an older dog that might be more mellow and a better fit for young children.