New to Bounty?
When it comes to getting a new family pet, it can be both exciting and stressful in equal parts to prepare kids for the responsibilities and changes that come with this territory. Dr Chantelle McGowan is a vet at Royal Canin, and she has given us the lowdown on how best to prepare your child for a new pet.
1. Involve your child in the discussion about the responsibility of having a new pet.
Take time to share with them the requirements of a new pet in a language they can understand.
2. Discuss with your children that your pet cannot eat all the things that they eat, and how it is important to not sneak them treats or share their food with them.
Dr. Chantelle McGowan, Royal Canin Vet shares her tips for preparing children for a new pet.
3. Talk to your children about how important it is for your pet to visit the vet to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Just like we visit the Doctor, the vet’s role is to help your pet.
4. Organise a dedicated area of the house for your new pet, where their bed, crate/carrier, toys and blankets can be.
Let your children know this is the equivalent of your pet’s bedroom – it’s their safe place and they shouldn’t disturb their pet when it is this area of the house.
5. A common trigger for a pet biting a child is when either child or pet is eating and interacting.
Food bowls should never be disturbed – if your child is not of an age where they can understand this, the safest option is to have the feeding area separate from where your child can access.
Feed your pets behind closed doors, and closely supervise your child if they are eating and your pet is around. Rather than lock the pet away when your child is eating (as the pet may perceive this as punishment and develop negative associations with a child eating), give the pet a reward as well (and this doesn’t have to be a food reward, it could be their favourite toy) behind a physical barrier so everyone is safe and happy.
6. Beginning education early on around body language and consent is key to helping prevent dog bites that are not food related.
As a child, I was mauled by a dog we had recently rescued who was very fearful. Always having loved animals, 3-year-old me saw he was anxious and went to give him a big HUG around the neck. Understandably, this poor terrified dog lashed out and I was taken to hospital for multiple plastic surgeries around my face and scalp. I still have a beautiful grey streak from one of the scars I’ve carried through my life as a reminder and motivator to help uncertain and fearful pets become better understood. Most dog bites come from familiar dogs, and usually in situations where their boundaries have been ignored. It is all our responsibility to talk about body language and consent by pets to touch pets, even if only for the purposes of reciprocal safety.
7. Just like us, pets need rest as equally important as exercise and brain games.
They can become overwhelmed or may find an interaction intimidating and scary if we look at it from their perspective. Teaching children (and adults too!) about always giving a pet a ‘way out’ of the interaction and always respect if they choose not to engage.
Getting a new pet is an exciting step for families, and by following these tips from the start, you can ensure your children are ready. By involving them in conversations to help them understand the needs of their new furry friends, they will have a greater sense of responsibility and knowledge of their pets.