So you've decided to get a new pet and now it's time to get your new furry friend acquainted with your two-legged children. How do you get started?
Your kids will no doubt be excited about the addition of a new family member. So the important step now is to teach your kids the best ways to interact with your new pet.
Use gentle hands. Teaching kids to be gentle is a huge contributor to the relationship they can have with a pet. Take the time to demonstrate the proper way to interact with animals, which is calmly (no loud noises) and with non-threatening hands, such as a low, closed fist or an open palm for the animal to sniff and become familiar with. Kids should never tug on pets and should avoid their ears, eyes, and mouth when petting and playing.
Approach with caution. Whether kids are meeting a new pet at home or at a friend’s house, it’s important to emphasize personal space and permission. Remind kids to stand at a safe distance and not crowd the animal with their faces or fingers, as new pets can often be scared and timid. Kids should also ask the owner for permission to pet an animal before approaching them.
Keep calm. Explain to kids that animals don’t share the excitement of meeting the way humans do, and that loud noises or quick movements can startle them, which can provoke a bad response such as biting or shying away. Animals can feel more at ease when humans are gentle, doting, and attentive, rather than when they are surrounded by jumping and shouting.
Know the warning signs. Adults have an easier time judging when an animal simply isn’t comfortable. But when a small child can’t wait to pet or play with their new companion, they might be oblivious to warning signs. Most pets will approach an open palm with friendly curiosity, giving the 'OK' to be handled. If an animal turns its head, walks away, puts its ears back, cowers, hides its tail between its legs or shows teeth, it’s crucial for children to know that playtime is a no-no.
Take good care. Pets can serve as major stepping stones in teaching children responsibilities. When welcoming a new pet to the family, encourage children to help care for them by feeding them daily; keeping bowls filled with fresh, clean water; grooming pets; cleaning up after them regularly; and providing pets with ample play.
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