Kids and pets

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Can You Have Children and Keep Your Pets too?

When I first moved to Bangkok, I lived near a nice young couple who owned a tawny-brown puppy named Cookie. A rescued soi dog, Cookie was just about everything you could ask for in a pet: sweet, affectionate and playful as can be. I only saw my neighbors on occasion, and almost always when they were out taking their furry friend for a stroll.

Pets and Kids

Months passed and one day I realized I hadn’t seen Cookie around in quite some time. When I asked how she was doing, both the husband and wife looked uncomfortable.

“We had to give her away,” the wife said, avoiding eye contact.

In the interest of tact, I probably should’ve let the the subject drop, but I pressed. They told me a story familiar to many new parents. They had adopted Cookie several years earlier, before they were sure that they wanted to start a family. When the wife became pregnant, they thought that they would be able to keep the dog.

After the birth, however, problems arose almost immediately. While Cookie was friendly with adults, she became skittish around the newborn child. She started to bark and growl whenever the baby cried, which of course only led to more crying. Worse, Cookie grew steadily more and more jealous of the new family member. A few months after the baby was born, the couple decided that the dog had to go.

It’s an unfortunate truth that getting young children and pets to coexist together can be tricky or even disastrous. It’s worth thinking very seriously if this is something that you want to undertake. If you’re determined though, here are a few things you can do to ensure that all members of your family, both four-legged and two, can get along happily.

1. Consider waiting until your child is older. In this particular story, the family didn’t have this option. If you do not already have a pet though, think about waiting until your child is at least over the age of five. Not only will your child have a better sense of how to behave appropriately around animals (toddlers love to pull tails, ears and anything else they can get their tiny hands on), but also you’ll have slightly less to manage as a parent. A newborn baby is a whole lot of work–adding a puppy to the mix is just asking for trouble.

2. Choose your pet very carefully. Those puppies and kittens in Chatuchak Market may be adorable, but they aren’t likely to be vaccinated or well-bred. Make sure your dog or cat has all of their proper medical checkups and select a breed that’s relatively mellow.

3. Be wary of adoption. This is hard for me to say, since I’m a big believer in adopting pets. It’s important to understand though that rescued animals come with their own emotional histories and baggage. Some may already be used to children, while others may dislike them. If you have your heart set on adoption, visit the animal repeatedly in the shelter and learn as much as you can about their background.

4. Invest in proper obedience training. This one is absolutely essential. If you’re going to have a dog around the house, make sure it’s a well-behaved one. K-9 Bangkok (; group obedience courses from Bt10,000) has been training all different breeds for more than 20 years.

5. Stick to boundaries. Do not leave your pet alone with your child. No matter how cute they both are or how harmless it seems, something could always go wrong. Constant supervision is key. Make your child’s room a pet-free zone and invest in child-proof gates.
Photo Credit: russteaches via Compfight cc

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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