Most of us who love animals are already convinced that pets are great for children. Now there is a new study out of Finland that shows that babies who live with pets are healthier than babies in pet-free homes.
Dr. Eija Bergroth found that infants with pets in their home, especially dogs, had fewer infections during their first year of life. The researcher offered a possible explanation: dirt and allergens brought in by animals may actually be beneficial to the healthy development of babies’ immune systems.
As children grow, they also derive many emotional benefits from pets. One of the greatest of these is sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Given all the positive aspects of having children and pets together, it’s easy to overlook the responsibility to ensure the safety of both the kids and the animals.
Recently, a friend shared an online video called “Pug Shares with Baby” in which the baby chews on and takes the dog’s rawhide chewstick. These kinds of images seem cute, at first blush. Unfortunately, they can lull us into thinking it is safe to allow babies and pets to play together without boundaries.
While the dog in the video was tolerant, there is no assurance that the dog will remain patient in the future. Even if this dog continues to tolerate the child’s intrusiveness, the child is learning behaviors that could put her at risk with other dogs.
Dogs growl and use their mouths to let other canines know to back off. If a dog exhibits these natural dog behaviors to tell a child they need more space, then we have a serious problem. Dogs that bite children often end up being euthanized and the child can be physically and emotionally scarred.
Most dogs give subtle body language signals long before they bite, signals other dogs recognize but we—even people who have lived with dogs for years—can miss. A lick of the lip, turning away, showing the whites of the eyes are some of the signs of stress or anxiety that we can learn to recognize in our dogs.
We can protect children from potentially unsafe interaction with animals by teaching them to respect animals by giving them space and not taking their toys or food.
The doggonesafe.com website’s “Learn to Speak Dog” and “Bite Prevention” sections provide helpful information that will help you protect the children and dogs in your life.
Events that Help Homeless Pets
Reno is Petown through July 31 at Nevada Humane Society. Adopt your very own “Dog Vinci,” “Cattisse,” or “Petcasso” at reduced fees. Adult cats and dogs that have been in the shelter over three months are free. Other cats are $25 and dogs are $50. Kittens are just $40. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Lane, Reno.