Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Living with dogs doesn’t just make me a better babysitter – it also makes the job easier and way more enjoyable. At least that is my experience from watching a passel of nephews and other young ones. Of course there are safety issues to consider, but on the whole it is a win-win-win, for me, my pets and the children.
Here a several ways my dogs and I share the work that comes with babysitting:
Turning Off the Cartoons
This is a big one for me, since I don’t like to watch most things twice and kids seem to love watching endless repeats of their favorite shows. I also worry about too much time spent in front of the television. Turning off the TV requires coming up with activities, something that isn’t easy if you are unexpectedly pressed into service.
With a dog, however, there is always something to do. That is a big help when parents are in too big of a hurry to bring anything for their child to play with. So the dog toys become “kid toys” too, and everyone gets some quality playtime.
Safety tip: Don’t let a child and your dog play in an open yard if your pet has protective tendencies. Any stranger that walks up could be seen as a threat to the child, and your dog could get aggressive.
I was in a situation a few years ago where my nephew Isaiah would be at my house through the day, but the neighborhood children were in school. While we enjoy playing together, he would get sad that there wasn’t anyone young to run around the yard with him. Enter Wuppy. My chocolate lab was just a pup then, full of boundless energy and surprising antics that delighted Isaiah.
And frankly, that delighted me too, as I wore out a lot quicker than my nephew did and way before my Wuppy did. I could supervise the two of them running through the backyard and not be too exhausted to work when done babysitting.
Safety tip: Make sure your pet is trained not to jump on people, especially children, as they could accidentally knock them over or claw their playmate. Also, don’t let children play tugging games with objects close to your dog’s mouth or with sticks. This is to prevent a dog bite or getting your pet’s gums injured.
No Argument at Bedtime
Ever had a child too wound up to go to bed or take a nap? Then you know it can quickly turn into a mess of pouting, shouting, pleading and tears. Not if you have a dog to help you wear the child out! I like to take the kids along for walks or bike rides, depending on their age, in addition to playtime. This leads to a nicely tired child, willing to go to sleep.
Letting the child nap with your pets can also calm fits thrown for forgotten pillows, stuffies and security blankies. Just be sure to ask the parents for permission, since they may not like their child sleeping with pets.
Safety tip: Don’t let young children hold the leash by themselves. They may not be strong enough to hang on if your pet sees a squirrel, or may get their hand tangled and be dragged along.
Kids seem to love feeding dogs. And what dog doesn’t love to be fed? I’ve gotten my nephews to eat many times by reminding them they can each hand out some CANIDAE dog treats when they are done with their own meal.
Safety tip: Don’t let kids hand feed dogs they aren’t familiar with or those that tend to nip or jump for food. Instead, let them toss the treat or be the one to call your dog to the food bowl.
Fostering Pet Responsibility
I think it’s important to foster good behavior while watching children, and teaching children responsible pet ownership is one way to do just that. My nephews were introduced to my dogs at a young age, in some cases before they had pets in their home. Each time I have discussed what they can and can’t do around my pets (or to them) before introducing a new activity. We also talk about how to care for pets and how it is our responsibility to make sure our furry loved ones are safe and happy.
Safety tip: Before letting a child around your pet and vice versa, it is important to discuss it with their parents. You’ll want their permission and to know if the kids have had any bad experiences with dogs.
Are your dogs good with children? How do they help you babysit?
Photo by Kerekes János Csongor
Read more articles by Tamara McRill