They are often called man’s best friend, but how can you be sure that a dog or any pet you purchase for your family will result in a positive experience for your children?
According to Samantha Stern, training and development director for Ebenezer Child Care Centers, “Owning a pet and learning to care for it can be extremely rewarding for children. However, before your family selects a pet, you should do you your homework to make sure that the animal you select is appropriate for your children’s age and your family’s lifestyle.”
Here are some simple things to consider for interacting positively with pets.
Treating Your Pet With Respect
According to Stern, it is essential that children learn to always treat pets with respect. This means petting them gently and paying attention to their moods, so you can tell always tell when they are scared or simply want to be left alone.
“Pets can teach children compassion,” says Stern. “However, children need to be taught to pay attention to their pet’s feelings and treat them accordingly. If they treat them well, they will have a great companion. If they don’t, there can be trouble.”
Another thing to teach your children is how to pick up pets that would like to be held and how to recognize when pets are agitated and don’t want to be held.
Hamsters, gerbils, cats, and rats should always be picked up by their bellies, not their ears or tail. It’s also important to teach your children to always use gentle touches when touching pets. They should never touch a pet’s eyes or tug on their tail or ears.
In addition, when pets are eating or sleeping, children should be taught to leave them alone. Animals don’t like to be bothered when they are eating and can snap at little hands that try to pull a food bowl or water dish away. Likewise, when pets are woken from a sleep, they can be disoriented or grumpy and can also act out in frustration.
Caring For Your Pet
Stern says it’s important for you to teach your children that pets need to be cared for on a consistent basis. That means feeding them at regular times, cleaning their living areas on an ongoing basis, and making sure they are getting enough exercise and stimulation.
Children should also be taught to wash their hands after interacting with pets and to notify an adult immediately if pets don’t look like they are feeling quite right.
Just like children, pets need regular visits to their veterinarians for immunizations and heart worm, flea, and dental care. Another thing to consider is that pets that have been spayed or neutered tend to be more mild- mannered.
Children may also find it funny that just like them, pets can go to school. Dogs often benefit greatly from obedience school where they are taught how to listen to simple directions from their owners. This activity can be a great way for older children to bond with new pets.
How To Interact With Other People’s Pets
When you are visiting friends and are around strange pets that you do not know, it’s usually best to leave them alone. In fact, according to Stern, it is wise to tell your friends to simply put pets in a different room during your visit, especially if you have young children.
Stern says, “You should never allow your children to pet strange dogs or go near pets with babies without close supervision. Animals are very unpredictable and extremely protective of their young.”
“If your children are approached by a strange dog when an adult is not supervising them, they should be taught not to scream but rather to walk away slowly from the strange dog while not flaring their arms or legs or making eye contact.”
“As a parent, you want having a pets or being around someone else’s pets to be a positive experience,” says Stern. “The bottom line to remember is to always treat every animal you encounter with respect.”
Ebenezer Family Fun Night – Animal Safety With Children – Thursday, May 15, from 5-7 p.m., Ebenezer Child Care Centers, Oak Creek Center, 220 W. Forest Hill Avenue, Oak Creek. Children and pets go together like peanut butter and jelly, but they can also mix like oil and water. Caring for a pet can help children learn important lessons about responsibility. Therefore, children need to be taught how to be kind to animals which means they also need to be taught how to be safe around them.
Come to this Family Fun Night for some tips to help you raise an obedient pet and a child who understands how to be safe around animals. Activities for this Family Fun Night will include making paper bag dog puppets, creating a fish bowl snack, and playing with “mice” in the sensory table. You will also have the opportunity to enter drawings for raffle prizes and enjoy dinner on us.
This event, which is sponsored by Children’s Hospital’s Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Fund, is free and open to the public. Registration is required at least one week in advance. Please call 414-643-5070 to register.