Having a pet in the home with children is rewarding, but their interactions aren’t always perfect from the outset. Both the pet and the child require guidance and learning. Young children don’t quite understand how to interact with the family pet, and your pet are learning as well.
1. Teach Your Child to be Gentle
Young children are learning about their world using all of their senses, including touch. They want to reach for and grab everything in sight. Your family pet is particularly inviting because they are so soft and cute. Teaching a child to be gentle to animals takes a little patience, a willing pet, and forgiveness from everyone involved.
When teaching a child to be gentle, put your hand over theirs, and guide the interaction with the pet, saying “gentle” as you go. If the child gets a bit rough, redirect, and try again later. Learning to be gentle takes practice. Always make it a positive interaction for the child and the pet; praise the pet for their patience and praise your child, too.
2. Show Your Child How to Respect Boundaries
Everyone in the family should honor a pet’s boundaries, children included. Your family pet must have an opportunity to eat their food without distraction. Also, they need to rest and relieve themselves in peace. Sometimes, ignoring these boundaries causes a lot of stress for your pets, and the outcome may be devastating.
When boundaries aren’t respected, pets may lash out. You can keep your pets from biting or scratching by teaching children to respect those boundaries. It’s okay to use gates and doors to restrict interactions between your pet and your child. You should always supervise young children around pets.
The Benefits of Teaching Your Kids to Interact with the Family Pet
Although having pets with children brings extra considerations, the pay off is worth the cost. Pets teach a child empathy and kindness. For babies, toddlers and young children, your guidance is crucial. Pets also show older children how to be responsible. Children can take on chores associated with the family pet, whether it’s the daily feeding and watering or cleaning up after them.
Children and pets can live together. Guiding both pet and child in their interactions create a safe and enriching experience for everyone. So, teach your child to be gentle and respect boundaries with your family pet.