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Introducing Babies to Pets

 

Watch Over Them

 

Tune into your dog's reactions to your grandchild. Most undesirable behavior stems from territorialism or defensiveness. "If the dog gets upset when the child is on your lap, it's not necessarily jealousy," says Forbes. "The dog is thinking, 'why is that person sitting on top of you? I should do something about it.'"

 

And, keep an eye out for teasing. "An inquisitive, lovable grandchild will experiment with things that are hurtful," says LaFarge. "What if I pull his tail or poke his eye? It's not a sign that the child is going to grow up to be a sociopath," she assures, "but, it does mean the child needs to be directly corrected and told, 'No, that hurts the dog.'"

 

It's not safe for your grandchildren to learn that they can be rough with animals. "Your dog might be friendly," says LaFarge, "but some other dog may not be." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 400,000 children in America seek medical attention for dog bites. And, the rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9.

 

Introducing Cats, Birds ... Monkeys?

 

Your cat will develop his own strategy for meeting your grandchild — or not. "If the cat doesn't like children, there's nothing you can do to make him change his mind. Just keep them separate until the child has good control over his or her behavior and can approach the cat carefully. The child needs to be taught how to 'read' or understand cat body language," says LaFarge. Even when cats do want to roughhouse with the little ones, remain cautious. "Cats have a high play drive and a child can get scratched up," says Forbes.

 

It's also wise to keep birds and other small animals in their cages when grandchildren are dawdling about the house. But, when you're around, sure, let them interact with all your pets. And let the joy and Kodak moments begin.

 

"We raised a howler monkey who loved to nibble on hard candy," says Virginia, the Dallas grandmother. "When he realized the baby of the house didn't have teeth, he'd bite off a tiny bit and try to share it. I didn't believe it...until my husband snapped a picture."

 

Image: Brianna Lehman / via Flickr

 

This article originally appeared on Grandparents.com.

 

 

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