“Ask The Expert” With Dr. Karen Hill-Scott
Hi Parents – I know that many of you have asked some great questions on Facebook and Twitter. There was one question that really caught my attention because it comes up in almost every family at some point during their children’s lives.
Marissa Neilson wrote, “If I were to get my daughter (8-months) a pet that she can grow up with, what would be the best pet? (one that if she beats on it a little it will still be fine, not attack, etc.). Thanks!”
A very popular question, Marissa! So many parents wonder about the right way to introduce pets into a growing family. I would recommend that if you want your daughter to have a pet, wait until she expresses an interest in animals and asks for a pet that she can help take care of and co-own with you. It will benefit the family in the end as she will be more attached to the pet and careful about accidentally provoking or hurting the animal. If YOU want a pet (which means another baby to take care of) then here are a few points to keep in mind.
1. Start by researching the kinds of animals you love and how each of these animals interacts with infants and young children.
2. Expose your child to animals through your social relationships with other pet owners or by visiting a pet foster care program where you don’t have the responsibility of permanent ownership.
3. Observe your baby’s reactions to the animals you like. If there is a lot of fear and withdrawal now, pet ownership is a project that can be postponed until your child is older.
4. Be mindful of possible allergies your child might have to certain animals, especially furry ones.
5. Your pet, your child, and your family will truly benefit from training the animal. Lots of accidents occur because the pet and the child have not had the training to live together as friends. And by the way, good pet training is not cruel to your animal. Many types of pets want to earn your approval for appropriate behavior and being trained increases pet and owner safety.
Best of luck with your decision! Most of all be fair to yourself, your baby, and the animal by seriously exploring your options. Pets add endless joy to our lives, and our gratitude to the animals is to choose the right pet at the right time before adding one to the family.
Thanks to everyone for their questions. Look out for our next Q&A session on Facebook and Twitter when another question will be selected and I’ll always provide very practical solutions based on research and experience. I welcome feedback and look forward to “chatting” again soon.
Dr. Karen Hill-Scott