How do you introduce a pet to young children?

Posted by Argos. December 23rd 2013.

Having a pet can enhance any family. An animal gives children the chance to learn about responsibility as they care for a living creature. A dog especially can bring family members together as they train it and take it for regular walks.

However, introducing a pet to your family requires some preparation.

There are so many pets which children may love but this time we will be looking solely at cats and dogs as, unlike birds and fish, they will likely share a space with the family.

A baby plays with a puppy

Bringing a dog into the home

Dogs are so friendly and companionable that it is easy to forget that they are animals after all and can turn. This only happens in exceptional circumstances but your children need to learn not to aggravate a dog.

Firstly, smell is very important to a dog; let it sniff around your kids in order to connect with them. If it feels right, you can let your children carefully offer their hands to the dog for smelling. This is like a gesture of friendship.

A point worth noting; dogs generally don’t like being petted on the head. It’s best to stroke their chin or side of the head.

The first few days

Once the dog and children are familiar with one-another, there are some basic ground rules which will prevent any scenes between them.

Teach children to respect a dog’s space and to allow it to initiate contact first. Make sure your children know that they shouldn’t take a dog’s toys or food. This is teasing and the dog will resent it and may become aggressive. Likewise, if your child is eating/ waving food around in front of a dog – the dog may think the food is up for grabs and could try and snatch it away.

If a dog looks like it is in a hostile mood for some mysterious canine reason, kids need to back off until it relaxes. A dog that is in a hostile mood will usually show the following characteristics; a tense and stiff body, ears positioned forward and the mouth will be drawn back to expose a snarl. A sleeping dog should never, ever be woken up, or surprised from an angle where he or she cannot see the child approaching. Of course, you as the parent should always supervise contact between your dog and kids, especially if they are young or prone to be energetic.

child washing dog

Introducing a cat

Cats are not fans of noise or excitement while most children are! When you introduce a new feline to children, make sure it is in a calm environment.

Hold the cat and let your children gently reach out and stroke the pet making sure it always feels comfortable. This can be a magical moment for kids!

Of course, kids = noise (at least some of the time). Your cat will probably get used to this but this doesn’t mean children should be permitted to be insensitive to your pet. When they get over excited, remind them that it is very upsetting for their feline friend.

Cats are experts at disappearing when they don’t like the ambience of a situation. They are likely to have hidey holes where they feel safe which they will bolt to when everything gets too raucous.

However, if you live in a small home without many hideaways, create a secure hiding place for your pet. From time to time it will need it and will help you all live happily together.

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