How to Introduce Children to Animals

A boy and his dog.

There’s nothing cuter than a child with a furry best friend. Close relationships with animals can help young children develop better speech habits and can even increase their empathy. Before you leave your young child in a room alone with a dog or cat, however, there are some steps you need to take to make sure your child knows how to interact with animals safely. 

Be an Example

Children are always watching, so if you want to teach them how to safely interact with animals, you must safely interact with animals. When your kids are nearby, you should always approach animals gently and ask their owners if it is okay to interact. Speak in calm tones and use positive reinforcement when interacting with your own pets, Being aware of how you interact with animals is an integral step of ensuring that your kids know how to safely interact with them as well.

Introduce Children to Animals with Rules

It is important to establish clear rules for children when interacting with animals so they can develop a safe and friendly relationship from the start. Here are some great ground rules to give children before they meet a new cat or dog:

  • No pulling: kids should never pull on an animal’s tail or ears
  • No climbing: children should know that is not safe to climb on top of an animal. They should also refrain from squeezing it
  • Don’t get too close: Children sometimes have a tendency to get very close to an animal’s face, which can make the animal feel threatened
  • Do not yell: Teach your kids not to yell or speak too loudly around animals. Speaking in calm tones will keep the animal calm, which will encourage a better experience for all involved

Supervise Any Interactions

If you are introducing a new animal into the home, you should definitely supervise their interactions. This gives you another opportunity to teach your children the safest way to be around animals. It also lets you be sure that the animals are not feeling stressed and likely to lash out at the kids. 

Teaching Them to Interact with Stranger Animals

Children interacting with pets that live in their home is very different from them interacting with animals they meet in the real world. Be sure that your children know to always ask before approaching an animal that belongs to someone else. Show them how to gently pet a stranger animal once they have gotten permission. Make sure they know to never interact with an animal they encounter that is not on a leash or walking with their human companion.

The team at Berkeley Veterinary Center wants to help you give your pets the best care throughout every stage of life. Whether you are looking for tips on introducing children and animals or need to schedule an annual wellness exam, we are here for you. To learn more, call (732) 269-3600.

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