Dogs and children make great companions, and for the most part parents will find that their kids love having pets at home. However, it is important to remember that youngsters have a tendency to be over-excitable while pets can be unpredictable, which can make for an explosive combination if they're not monitored closely.

This is particularly true with young children, who may not yet be of an age where they can understand how to behave around animals, and may unintentionally scare or hurt a dog.

Therefore, Pete Wedderburn, a TV vet and columnist for the Daily Telegraph, points out that the first rule of thumb when it comes to dogs and young children is that they should never be left alone together.

"Young children should never be left unsupervised with pets of any kind," he says. "They may accidentally hurt the pets, and there is a serious risk that they may be scratched by cats or bitten by dogs. Young children are just too unpredictable and animals cannot be blamed for trying to defend themselves (eg if a toddler grabs an ear or a tail)."

Parents can help to create a harmonious relationship between their dog and children by showing their youngsters how to act calmly around their pooch, and illustrating the best ways to gently stroke the dog.

Make it clear that they shouldn't be rough and pull their pup's tail, ears or fur, and avoid letting them 'wrestle', as too often this ends up in tears if the child or dog becomes over-excited.

It can also be a good idea to create a safe place for your pooch in the house so they know there is somewhere where they can go to sleep and eat their dry dog food, knowing they will not be disturbed by any kids.

Written by: Hannah