With Our Resident Animal Behaviourist 

Nurturing Safe Relationships between Children and Pets

Reading progress

Teaching kids to respect their pets and to understand that they too have feelings (they can feel scared or happy) has a knock-on effect on communities and the next generation.  Animals lead rich emotional lives, and teaching children from a very young age that animals have feelings is teaching them to have compassion and empathy for others.  

Supervision

Often, accidental injuries between a pet and a child can happen because of an absent caregiver or lack of adult supervision.  Parents should actively supervise interactions with their young children and their pets to ensure both are comfortable at all times. 

Communication

Understand how animals communicate through their body language.

Find out more about how dogs and cats communicate by getting in touch with an accredited behaviourist or force-free training school, and when adopting a pet be sure to research many great online resources relating to understanding your animal’s behaviour and body language cues.

 

Consent

Teach children that animals need to give their consent to being touched, picked up or handled. 

Not all animals enjoy patting, handling, being brushed or being picked up. 

Teach children to give them space while they are eating and not to disturb them while sleeping. 

A lot of pets do not like to be hugged as it is not a natural interaction for them – it can feel threatening or restrictive. 

Teach your child to avoid startling a resting dog and to rather call the dog over to them than invade their personal space. 

Compassion & Care

It’s important to understand that our pet companions are not toys or commodities- popular now and forgotten later. 

They are living beings and they are part of the family – depending on the type of pet and their breed, many can live 10 to 12 years or more!

Teaching children that having compassion for other living beings means understanding that they are with us for their lives and we need to provide care throughout their different life stages. 

Demonstrate to children that caring for pets includes cleaning up after them, ensuring a healthy, enriched living environment, that they feel safe and providing adequate shelter and fresh daily food and water. 

Teach children that pets also need to go to the doctor if they are unwell and that, just like humans, they need vaccinations and check-ups as they develop and age too.

Be Kind

Pets have extremely sensitive ears and hearing and you can help your child understand this by explaining that screaming or shouting can frighten them, even if the child is just playing.

To prevent biting incidents, teach kids not to take toys from their pet’s mouth if they are busy playing or chewing and never to tease an animal.

Positive Training Boosts Potential

Enrol your puppy in a force-free or positive reinforcement training class with your child and practice at home.  Including the children as part of their training means the dog and child wilol have positive and rewarding interactions together.  Positive training methods enhance the quality of your pet’s life and helps to build a confident, happy companion. 

When interacting with a pet dog, encourage interactive games like a game of fetch, so the dog and child have safe, positive experiences together that boost social bonding. 

Children can also teach their pets exercises, like “sit” and “give paw”.

 

Stranger Danger: Do Not Touch

A good life lesson for children is to teach them never to pet an animal they do not know.

“Leave them alone and do not touch” – this safety rule is there to prevent potential bites and also disease exposure from strays or unknown animals in the community.

Teach a child that if a dog chases them, “STAND LIKE A TREE”

What this means is, plant their roots into the ground:

    1. Stand still, like a tree
    2. Arms (branches) to their chest and
    3. Look at the ground (do not stare at the dog). 

Usually, an energetic dog will become more excitable if a child starts running and screaming.  

Whereas, if the child is taught to stand still this prevents a situation from escalating, so a parent or caregiver can intervene if necessary.

"Stand Like a Tree"

With these tips, we hope you will find your children developing a special bond between your children and their pets.

We wish them many mutually-fulfilling  years together, enjoying the companionship and true friendship that makes pet ownership so rewarding! 

Kids and Pets- “Safety and empathy go hand in hand”

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