Supervising Playtime With Your Toddler and Pets
Whether your toddler is crawling or walking, she's on the prowl for anything that grabs her fancy -- be it your kitty's tail, your dog's snout, or a favorite pet toy.
Until your toddler learns to gently stroke, rather than grab or pull at your pet, you need to be there for every interaction between the two of them. And while your instinct might be to keep your baby and pet apart until your child matures, experts advise against it.
"Keeping your baby from a well-trained pet with a good disposition is probably the worst thing you can do," says Jessica Auster-Levy, owner of It's Training Cats and Dogs in Montclair, New Jersey. "The pet starts to think that the baby is this prized possession, which is guaranteed to create some animosity."
Instead, let your toddler pet the dog or cat with supervision, and have lots and lots of treats on hand.
"You're essentially training your pet to think, 'Hey, here comes this kid again. Every time he's around, I get something yummy to eat. He's not so bad after all,' " Auster-Levy says.
Of course, if your toddler's advances bring out signs of aggression in your pet -- his eyes look steely, he does the little raised lip growl, or the cat hisses or tries to scratch -- your pet is warning your child to back off. This is the time to bring in an obedience trainer so you can better protect your child.
Since pet food and water pose a safety hazard to your toddler (she can choke on the food or drown in a bowl of water), it's imperative you keep these items in an area your child can't get to.