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Pets and Kids:
Teaching them to Get Along

Pets and Kids

We like to think that pets and kids make natural allies, but the truth is problems can often pop up. In fact, dog and cat aggression toward children is quite common these days. Why is this?

Pre-toddlers pose little threat to pets, as they cannot crawl or walk about a pet's home territory, or do any real harm. They are seen merely as small, harmless little additions to the "pack." When infants become mobile, however, things change.

Unpredictable and initially fearless, these little crawlers can be seen as "invaders" in the pet's domain. When the child begins to walk, he or she often begins playing chase games with the family pet, a game which many pets would actually prefer not to play.

Little hands grab and pull at hair or tails, poke eyes, or touch feet, all things most cats and dogs find distasteful.

Some dogs, when presented with a fast little child, will instinctively try to herd him or her. Herding breeds in particular might nip lightly at a child's heels much in the same way that they would with sheep or cattle; when applied to human children, however, this behavior is deemed unacceptable.

Gordon Setter

Other dogs can actually become somewhat predatory when presented with a small, scurrying little child. This can occur especially with large, protective breeds such as Rottweilers, pit bulls, mastiffs or German shepherd dogs.

When presented with a fast-moving target such as a playful little child, some of them might surrender to the innate urge to chase and bite.

Cats, toy dog breeds, or frail, older pets, worried over getting stepped on or injured in some manner, can often become fear-aggressive toward the child who chases or grabs incessantly. Though merely a defensive measure, it can result in injury to an unsuspecting child.

Cats, though not as likely to show the same level of aggression as dogs, can also bite or scratch at toddlers who grab, pull or pinch. A scratch or bite from a cat, though not as potentially damaging as an attack from a dog, can nevertheless be a serious matter, especially if directed toward the eyes.

by Steve Duno

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"If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around." - cowboy wisdom