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3 Most Common Mistakes: Getting a Pet for Your Kids. How to find an animal that fits your family, on Babble.com

3 Most Common Mistakes: Getting a Pet

How to find an animal that fits your family. by Babble Editors

June 4, 2009

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What are the 3 Most Common Mistakes parents make when getting a new pet for their kids?

Expert: Jennifer Andrew, Humane Educator at the Best Friends Society, mother of one, and proud pet-owner of a dog and a cat.

1. Getting a Puppy – Or a Little Dog

“I recommend getting an older dog who has been around people and has a good history with kids. If you adopt at a shelter, they’ll know if a dog has already lived with kids. Puppies are great, if you have a lot of time to devote to training a dog. You have to be honest with yourself and ask, ‘Am I really going to have the time to devote to training this dog?’ If the answer is no, it may be better to get an older dog who is already trained and who loves kids. Also: some people will want a little dog, like a Jack Russell or a Dodson, because they have small kids. That worries me, because small dog breeds tend to be more nervous in general and will often be more unpredictable around toddlers and young children. Whereas, if you have a black lab and the child grabs at it, he won’t be as frightened as a little tiny dog would be.”

2. Letting Kids Be Grabby

“When you’re teaching young children to interact with their pet, you have to be really consistent. Whenever the cat or dog is around, show your child the right way to pet the animal. We teach the pre-schoolers we work with to use two fingers to pet an animal. This lessens the chance of them grabbing the fur and pulling or irritating the animal. My daughter is eleven-and-a-half months now and she’s learning to pet the kitty-cat, so we’ll sit with the cat and take her hand and say, “Gentle.” Occasionally she grabs the cat’s fur and we say, “No, gentle,” but we’re right there the whole time. That’s important too. When you’re getting a child and a pet used to each other, you should be in the room with them. It’s also important, especially when you have toddlers and they’re moving all over, to have a place where your pets can go that the kids can’t get to, because an animal can get stressed out and be more likely to react to the child negatively when it can’t escape unwanted attention.”

3. Skipping Vet Visits

“I also recommend that you make sure your pet has regular vet check-ups, even when there is no medical emergency or need for a shot. I say this because if a dog has an earache, for example, and a little kid grabs its ear, the dog could be nippy even if normally it wouldn’t be. Get your pet checked regularly to make sure they don’t have any injuries or infections that would cause the animal to act differently, and keep a close eye out for any signs of illness or any behavioral changes in your pet.”

As told to Lindsay Armstrong.

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