pets in daycare settings

Pets in Daycare Settings

Pets can teach children empathy and compassion, and studies show that petting an animal can have stress-relieving benefits and boost self-esteem.  However, not every pet loves children.   And not every child likes pets.  They could’ve had bad experiences, or they’re maybe a senior dog or cat that wants a quiet life.  In this blog post, we are going to explore how to safely have pets in daycare settings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that reptiles, amphibians, chickens, ducks, and ferrets should not be allowed in daycare centers, schools, or other settings with children younger than five years. Be sure to check with your local state/province regulations on if your pet is even allowed in your home daycare.

turtles in daycares

Be honest with yourself if it’s appropriate to have pets in your home daycare.  You know the temperament of your pet the best.  

Below are seven tips for helping to integrate pets, especially dogs, and children successfully in a daycare setting:

1. Escape Route

Your pet should have an escape route and a safe place to retreat out of the kid’s reach.  

2. NEVER leave your pet loose unsupervised with the kids.

Baby gates, or high-panel puppy pens for smaller dogs, are excellent management tools if you don’t want to shut a dog in another room.

3. Teach the children how to engage with pets appropriately.

No teasing, rough-housing, or man-handling.  They should only interact if the pet is actively seeking attention, and they shouldn’t disturb them when they are sleeping or eating.

4. Understand your pet’s body language.

If they have had enough, dogs may show appeasement signals like lick lipping, yawning, or avoiding eye contact.  Their ears may be flat against their head, the whites of their eyes may show, and their tail could be tucked between their legs.  If these signals are ignored (ideally, you would have stepped in by now though), and the dog growls, never punish this. Next time, the dog could leave out the warning growl and move straight to snapping or biting.  

5. Make interactions positive and fun.

Calm games or training tricks using food rewards can help your pet associate children with positive things, and it can be a fun way of learning for the kids too.  

6. Make time to train your dog.

Teaching a settle away from the table at mealtimes can help prevent begging, snatching, and tummy upsets.  Crate training offers your dog a positive, quiet space.  Encouraging four paws on the floor can help avoid exuberant jumping up at little faces.

7. Keep your pet stimulated and enriched

Don’t neglect your pet’s needs when you are caught up in a long day of childcare.  Dogs, for example, can become bored and disruptive if they are not kept entertained.  Stock up on interactive treat toys and brain-train games to keep them happy. Some favorites include stuffed Kong toys (for the power chewers),  a snuffle mat, and brain train games from the Nina Ottosson range.

Health and Safety Tips for Pets in Daycares

Young children are the most at risk for getting sick from pets in daycares.  Due to the fact that toddlers are notorious for putting everything in their mouths, you need to take special care to keep everyone safe and healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Animals may carry germs like Salmonella and E. coli on their bodies and in their droppings, even when they appear clean and healthy.”  Here are five tips to keep everyone safe and healthy in your home daycare.

  • Keep food dishes, water dishes, pet beds, kennels, cages, and litter boxes out of reach.
  • Don’t let pets on the surface where children are eating or where you are preparing food.
  • Don’t let pets sleep with children
  • Wash hands, after all, interacting with pets
  • Always inform parents that you have pets in your home daycare.  Let them decide if your home daycare is the right choice for them.  


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