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Be Kind to Animals Week is May 3rd-9th. In honor of this weeklong holiday, today we’re talking about how to teach your kids to be kind to animals. As children grow up, it’s important to teach them how to treat and relate to dogs, cats, and other pets so both the children and the animals can stay safe.
Here are a few strategies you can use as you teach your kids to be kind to animals:
Some children, especially toddlers and young children, might be unkind to animals simply because they don’t know any better. Remember, kids don’t have the life experience that adults do. Some may have never seen a dog or cat up close before! They’ll need to be taught how to treat these animals.
Start early by encouraging toddlers to be gentle to animals. Demonstrate how and where to pet a dog or cat, including how to pet in the direction the fur goes. Gently but firmly discourage any hitting, grabbing, or tail-pulling and tell the child what they can do, instead. “Gentle” is the keyword as you teach your children how to pet and interact with an animal.
It’s also essential to teach kids early on to never try to take away a toy or get near your dog’s food bowl while he is eating. Make sure to also explain that you should never startle an animal, throw something at them, or yell in their face. Again, this could end badly for the child if a startled animal becomes aggressive.
Rules like this will keep everybody safe and happy.
Kids begin to understand human body language as they grow up because they’re exposed to it every day. But animal body language can sometimes be a little trickier. Talk with your children about how dogs and cats might act: “If the dog’s tail is wagging back and forth, that means he’s happy! But if he growls or flattens his ears, you need to stop petting him and walk away, because he’s angry.”
For cats, common signs of anger or discomfort include hissing, a straight tail, and a rigid body.
Reiterate to your children that if an animal is trying to get away from you, it’s best to let the animal go instead of forcing it to do what you want.
When it comes to other peoples’ pets, tell your children that they should never pet an animal without asking the owner first. Petting a strange dog can be dangerous — what if the dog doesn’t like children or has behavioral issues? It’s also simply the courteous thing to do.
Teach your kids to say, “May I pet your dog/cat?” If the answer is no, respect that and walk away.
This is also a great time to teach your kids about service animals. If you see a dog out in public wearing a vest, chances are that dog is either helping a person with disabilities or is being trained to do so. The dog is working, so don’t call out to the dog or distract him or her in any way.
If your child has grown up with a dog or a cat, they probably feel comfortable around animals. This can be both a good and a bad thing — good because they’re not afraid, but bad because they may not think about taking necessary precautions.
Your family’s dog is sweet and great with kids, so every dog must be the same, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case — and this is something kids don’t always understand.
Find ways to safely expose children to other animals so they can understand how every pet has a different personality, just like humans. You might try visiting a friend’s home, stopping by your local animal shelter, or asking to pet different dogs you see at the park.
These situations can help you practice everything you’ve learned, such as how to gently pet animals and how to ask before doing so. Letting your children be around a variety of animals in a controlled setting is the best way to set them up for success when it comes to interacting with different pets.
Teaching your children to be kind to animals will have enormous benefits for both your kids and your pets. And when kids learn to be kind to animals, this will translate to other people, too — helping them develop a sense of empathy that will last a lifetime.
Here at PetFirst, we care about being kind to animals! One of the most important things you can do for your family pet is purchasing a pet insurance policy to help cover expensive vet bills. Get a pet insurance quote today.