Did you know that October is National Animal Safety and Protection Month? We believe one of the best ways to promote animal safety and protection is to teach children how to safely interact with animals. Pet-lovers and parents alike want children and pets to interact safely. But how do you teach a child to be gentle and respectful of animals? Here are our top tips:
1. Set a great example
One of the best ways we can teach children how to interact with animals is to set an example for them. Children are always watching and learning from adults and they will often mimic behavior they have seen. Set a good example for them by monitoring your own interactions with animals. This is a great way for children to learn how to be calm and gentle with animals, how to approach them and how to pet them.
2. Set rules and explain why they're important
There are several rules that should be taught to kids as early as possible. Cats and dogs are by far the most common household pets and the following rules will help ensure both the child and pet feel safe. While they may seem obvious to adults, it's important to teach children these basic rules and explain why they are important.
3. Teach them to seek permission before interacting with a pet
Many children get excited when they see other pets and immediately want to run over and pet them. Teach children to always ask permission before approaching an animal. They need permission from their parent and from the pet's owner. A child should never approach a strange pet if there is no adult present.
4. Supervise Interactions
An adult should always supervise interactions between a pet and a child. This allows the adult to correct any behavior that might make an animal feel threatened, and remind the child how to interact with the pet in a calm, safe way.
5. Show the best ways to pet an animal
It's important to start by showing a child how to approach an animal. Remind them to stay calm and use a soft voice so that the pet doesn't feel threatened. The child should hold out their hand and give the pet a chance to sniff them. It's best to pet the animal under their chin or on their chest first, and if they are friendly they can then be pet on their neck and back, and always pet them in the direction of the fur. An adult should be supervising and watching closely for any signs the pet is uncomfortable or scared.
6. Teach them when not to interact with a pet
One of the most important things you can teach your children about animals is when to not interact with them. Children should never approach a strange dog that is wandering around without a leash. Teach them to pay attention to a pet's body language and not to interact with pets that seem fearful or aggressive.
7. Praise your children when they are nice to animals
Giving your children praise when they are kind, patient and gentle with animals will help reinforce good behavior, give them confidence around animals, and make it a positive experience for them.
8. Give them pet-related responsibilities
Giving children pet-related responsibilities has so many benefits. While they will most likely need to be done under supervision, simple tasks like helping to give pets food and water, brushing, playing fetch or going on walks will help teach children about pet care and responsibility. It's also important to teach your child about the importance of veterinary visits.
9. Tell them what to do if they feel scared around an animal
If a child ever feels scared around an animal remind them to act like a tree: stand still and remain calm. They shouldn't make eye contact with an animal they feel threatened by, and should try very hard not to scream or run if a strange dog is approaching them. If the dog keeps approaching they should say loudly (but not yelling) "No! Go Away!" and should call for an adult. If the dog stops approaching them they should slowly back away and find an adult.
10. Teach them how they can help animals
There are many ways that we can teach children to help animals and doing so will help them learn to be responsible, caring and that they can make a difference. Small projects like bird feeders, recycling and not littering are great places to start and help teach children about the environment and responsibility. They can also help animals by going with you to donate towels, pet supplies and food to local shelters.