Baby with Dog

Pets in the Home – What’s Your Take?

Written by Julie Higginbotham, Senior Case Coordinator, Mecklenburg County CDSA

So there you are, an early interventionist, ready to go and meet a new family,……and there it is, a dog.  Not just any dog, but one that seems sure that the two of you are going to be best friends (or the worst of enemies…but I digress).  There are things that go through our minds as we envision this scenario, and here are some things to consider…..

On the one hand…… On the other hand….. 
You’re in the family’s home, and it might feel awkward to ask them to put the dog somewhere else.  This could be on the short list of boundaries that you would prefer remain uncrossed. 
The dog is so sweet and just wants your attention.  It is becoming a bit too much to juggle the dog and your paperwork with the family.
The dog is clearly a big part of the family’s day-to-day life. You’re already doing well getting outcomes that don’t happen to involve the dog. 
You’re really scared of that dog.  Nope – you’re still really scared of that dog.

Feel free to insert cat, bird, pig, horse, or any other animal that you may have encountered in your field experiences in early intervention.  What’s your take?  What do you think you should do?  Leave us a comment – you might just help out a fellow professional as they’re looking into the eyes of a furry or four-legged friend at their next visit!

Have you come across an interesting situation that you want to see in our blog?  Email us at and we’ll see what we can do!


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4 Responses to Pets in the Home – What’s Your Take?

  1. AnneLouise O'Brien October 20, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Well put, Julie 🙂
    Since I am a dog lover, I am usually happy to see one (or more) in the home and try to make friends with them. Cats are another story, but I do try! I find that parents are typically more freaked out about their animal crawling or jumping all over me, so I usually let them know it’s fine (which can be hard to say with a cat’s tail in your face or a dog licking you). I think if you are there to do an evaluation, it may be helpful to let the family do what would ease their mind, which may be putting the pet in another room so they can participate and not have to worry about redirecting the pet the whole time. If you are a home visitor that comes weekly, I think it’s best to try to co-exist with the pet wherever they happen to be in the family’s typical routine. Pets can provide great learning opportunities and be nice motivators for the child.
    I have been out with other EIs that are scared of dogs, so for them there are probably a whole host of challenges in trying to balance their fears with keeping with a “natural environment” mindset.

    • EI Excellence October 20, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks for that perspective, AnneLouise! It’s interesting how the kind of visit can impact how this can look for each family. 🙂

  2. Kim Hunter October 31, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    I love animals, but my immune system doesn’t! I am severely allergic to pet dander and saliva so visiting families with pets requires some additional preparation. As a service coordinator, I cannot ask families to meet in another location or outside on the porch, for obvious reasons. So what’s a girl to do? I keep benadryl and my inhaler with me at all times. I take a half-tablet of benadryl (half-tablet to minimize the drowsiness) and, if they have cats, a preventative dosage from my inhaler, about 30 minutes prior to the visit. Even though I take Zyrtec twice a day, being in a home with a pet still overwhelms my immune system so additional treatment is a necessity.

    I never ask a family to put their pet away when I visit. Doing so just seems rude to me. Afterall, I have asked to enter the family’s “sanctuary” so I need to adjust to whatever I encounter in the home. But if the family offers to put their pet into another room, I might not refuse! I love to see the effect pets have on the child I am seeing, however. I am amazed at how a perky dog can motivate a child to reach out or crawl when no one else can. So whenever possible, I prefer to endure my symptoms so that the animal can remain in the same room.

    If a curious dog or cat gets into my paperwork or nuzzles my laptop while I am typing, I just move my papers or move myself out of the animal’s reach. Problem solved!

    Fortunately, I don’t have any fear of animals so I don’t have to worry about that issue. Any other challenge related to the presence of pets? I’ve got an answer for that!

    • EI Excellence November 13, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      Sounds like you really work to meet the families’ needs while still looking out for yours. Thanks Kim!

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