Introducing pets to children: The correct way

Safety is important when bringing a pet into a household with children and the initial bonding lays the ground for a lifelong companionship. Ensure that introductions happen in calm environment. 
Introducing pets to children: The correct way

KOCHI: Having a pet can teach children about responsibility, empathy and emotional intelligence. However, safety is important when bringing a pet into a household with children and the initial introduction lays the ground of a lifelong happy companionship. This article will guide you on how to introduce a pet to a child in the proper manner.The first day a new pet comes home with you is a stressful experience for them due to a complete change of environment and surroundings, which can leave them feeling nervous and confused .Give your new pet plenty of quiet time for the first few days to avoid them feeling stressed. The most important thing to do when introducing children and pets is to always supervise interactions between them.

During initial days don’t leave the pet alone with children. Take the dog on a walk and bring the children along. If you’d rather introduce them at home, choose a large room and a set a relaxed atmosphere. Children are prone to making abrupt movements and are often noisy and high pitched, which can intimidate cats and dogs. Keep the child calm and seated as you bring the pet into the room.

You may want to keep dogs on a leash and give cats a safe escape perch that’s high up. Have the dog “sit” and make introductions calmly. If your pet seems curious about this new person, you can encourage the children and pets to interact. However, if you’re pet the pet seems hesitant or nervous, delay the entire process. Look for your pet adopting a stiff posture, freezing, hunching up or backing away from the child, which is a common body language when they feel threatened.

Before petting,let the dog sniff  the child.  Dogs use their sense of smell to say “hello” and find out who you are. Stand still, allowing the dog to sniff around you and the child. Let the animal come to you. If you are introducing a new baby to a dog, bring the little one’s blankets home to let the dog smell before the big introduction. To pet a dog, the child should start with a closed fist. Once the dog seems happy with that, encourage the child to stroke the dog. Start under the chin or on the neck, rather on the top of the head, and avoid sensitive areas like the tail, legs and belly. For cats ask the child to reach out slowly and gently stroke the cat on the head or back. Avoid sensitive areas like tail, feet and belly.

Avoid giving treats or using toys on the first greeting. Some dogs get excited at the sight of a treat and might snatch it roughly from tiny fingers.  Though toys are great ways to play with dogs, it can cause territorial issues or undue excitement. Also teach your child to always ask permission before approaching a dog that doesn’t belong to you. This simple gesture can prevent unsafe situations from developing. Try involving older kids in caring for the pet with small tasks like replenishing food and water or grooming.

Young children can sometimes regard pets as stuffed toys and can be rough with them, not realising that the  pet is being hurt. First set some ground rules about contact with animals both pets and street animals: Pets are not toys. Always be gentle when touching the pet.Avoid sensitive areas on their bodies.  Stroke the fur the right way. Don’t touch whiskers or tails. Don’t touch pets when they are eating or sleeping. Don’t sit on the pet. Do not tease or chase. By teaching our sons and daughters the appropriate way to approach new dogs, handle pets, and remain calm around animals parents  can lay the foundation of a lifelong friendship.

Set ground rules for interactions
●    Be gentle when petting.Avoid sensitive areas 
●    Don’t touch pets when they are eating.
●    Do not tease or chase. 

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The New Indian Express