Here at Cedar Park Pediatric & Family Medicine, we not only love kids, but many of our providers and staff also have quite the affection for our furry friends. I hope you enjoy this blog from my colleague, Dr. Lindsey Moore, as she shares her personal story about growing up with animals, and offers some great suggestions to help your kids have a great experience with pets as well. Enjoy! ~ Dr. Keegan
As an only child growing up, I was raised believing that my family’s cats and dogs were my “brothers” and “sisters”. I learned how to read by reading my childhood books to them, and I even began honing my doctor skills using my Fisher Price doctor’s kit on them as willing and loving patients at the age of 3-4.
Being around animals when children are young has numerous benefits, including friendship, fun, exercise and unconditional love. Animals can help children learn to think about the needs of others, and in doing so, they begin to understand the ideas of patience, kindness, and ultimately, empathy.
Recent studies have even suggested health benefits including decreased risk of upper respiratory infections, other infections, and allergies! In addition to benefits, however, there are risks – most notably the risk of getting bit, scratched or in other ways hurt by an animal. As dogs are often the most common pet that kids are introduced to, I’d love to review some things that families should be aware of and to teach their children about dogs to ensure safety!
- Never leave young children unsupervised around any dog, even one well-known to your family.
- Always ask an adult before you pet an unfamiliar dog.
- Wait for a dog to come to you, and once they do, pet them on the chest or the back. Avoid petting the head or the tail.
- Don’t tease dogs, and don’t run, as dogs naturally love to chase and catch moving things!
- Don’t play with or touch a dog that is with someone who is blind or in a wheelchair. Teach your children that these are “service dogs” and need to focus on helping people.
- Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping or eating.
- Don’t put your hands on a fence that has a dog behind it or touch a dog’s food bowl while they are eating. Dogs can be protective of their territory, and may interpret these things as threats.
- If a dog comes close to you without a leash, don’t run! Stand tall and don’t move, and try to avoid the dog’s eyes. If you have an object in your hands, throw it so the dog will be more interested in it than in you.
“Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole”. –Roger Caras