Many host families have pets and they can bring lots of fun and love to children. But you need to be careful and supervise closely if you have children around animals.
You need to be most aware of preventing dog bites and cat scratches, as these are the most common house pets.
Dog bites often happen in or around the home and are usually caused by the household dog or a friend’s dog. The most dangerous times are when a child is playing with a dog, or when the dog is eating or sleeping.
Always closely supervise children near dogs, especially during play. Separate the dog and child when you can’t supervise properly, during noisy or energetic play, when food is present or when a dog is sleeping. Ask friends and relatives to do the same whenever their dog is around.
A child should never approach a dog if it is:
Sleeping – make sure a dog’s sleeping area is in a quiet place away from activity areas, where it can sleep without being disturbed
Eating or chewing a treat – separate the dog and your child at these times and also at meal or snack times. Only an adult should feed a dog. Don’t let a child play with or near a dog’s food or water bowl.
An unknown animal, even if it looks familiar or friendly
Showing warning signs such as lifting its lips, growling, backing off or raising the hair on its back
Taking a toy or food away from a child – teach children to call you rather than trying to get the toy or food back themselves
A child learns best by copying what you do
Teach him or her to treat all animals gently and kindly, and to never hurt, tease, frighten or surprise an animal.
With the parent’s consent, you may be able to allow children to participate in activities such as walking or bathing a dog as long as you supervise carefully.
If a child you are caring for wants to pat a dog, even if he knows the dog, make sure he knows to always ask you first. If the dog doesn’t belong to you, you should ask the dog’s owner if it’s OK to pat.
The following tips will also help to keep children safe:
Have the dog owner hold and reassure the dog.
Show the child how to pat the dog. You might need to do this many times.
Approach the dog from the side on an angle.
Move slowly and calmly, curl your fingers into a fist and let the dog sniff the back of your hand.
Stroke the dog gently on the chest or under the chin.
Always be gentle, and wash your hands after patting.
Always supervise the child as he or she pats the dog.
If the child or dog is unhappy or upset, stop patting until everyone is calm.
Handling unfamiliar dogs
If you’re approached by an unfamiliar dog, stay calm and encourage your child to do the same. Never run screaming from a dog – this might encourage it to chase you.
Teach children to stand still like a tree, arms by his side, fingers curled under and eyes looking at the ground. It’s best to stay quiet.
If a dog knocks the child over, they should roll into a ball and lie still
Dogs are a man’s best friend, right?
Not around food they aren’t! Sharing food with animals is one of the fastest way to spread germs and contract illnesses.
Always remind children to wash their hands after playing with animals and never allow animals around the food you eat.
Like dogs, caution should be taken when approaching a cat. Do not disrupt a cat when it is eating, sleeping or using its litter box.
Signs of a friendly cat include:
Open eyes and ears and whiskers sticking out
Stretching, treading paws
Tail wagging, licking
Purring or friendly meowing
Approaches humans, don’t run away and hide
Signs of an upset cat, best left alone:
Ears and whiskers flat against the head
Tail and back fur standing straight up
Showing teeth or hissing
Scratching or biting
If a cat is upset or menacing, remove children from the area to avoid scratches or bites.
Children can usually pet a cat that is friendly
The best way to pet a cat is by first letting it sniff your hand and then giving it a gentle pat or rub on the head and back
Don’t allow children to pull a cat’s tail, as this can hurt them
If picking up a cat, lift the tummy with one hand and support the back legs with the other hand.
Other common pets include fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and reptiles.
Care should be taken when coming in contact with any animal.
As an au pair, encourage children to be calm and gentle when handling animals or avoid playing with them while you are in charge.
Be sure to get additional instructions on pet care and handling from parents.
Some animals are not meant to be handled by children so if you aren’t sure, better to let parents deal with pet animals.
Don’t forget to feed the fishies! Follow pet care instructions from your employer if you are expected to care for a pet on the job.
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