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Each year, there are 3.2 million shelter pets that are adopted out of which 1.6 million are dogs and 1.4 million are cats. If you are getting a pet from a shelter for your family, it is important to introduce them properly and safely to your young kids. While taking in an animal from a shelter home is a noble gesture, it is essential that you are aware of the implications of rehoming them correctly. Good parenting means introducing new pets to young family members safely and responsibly.
Bringing a pet to your home involves training both kids and an animal how to behave around each other. However, the key is to supervise their interactions at all times. Remember, a small child is in the eyes of a dog or cat equal to them in size which might make them less of an authority figure. Hence, not leaving your kids with a pet and without adult supervision is critical to their safety.
First, teach a child how to touch and pet an animal gently avoiding sensitive areas such as the ears, tails, belly, and feet. For example, let them offer a closed fist for the dog to smell. Explain that stroking is good but pulling, poking or squeezing is not and may irritate a pet.
It is also important to speak in soft voices and avoid yelling which may agitate your four-legged friends. Teach your children to leave pets alone when they are eating, sleeping, or chewing on something. You should also forbid rough play as it can elicit aggression that can harm young children.
Setting a good example for your kids to follow also encourages proper behavior when around domesticated creatures. This means treating animals with kindness and respect. Caring for them, reinforcing positive or good behavior and never yelling or physically hurting them will teach kids to do the same.
If you have older kids, you can involve them in caring for a pet. Doing simple chores such as replenishing water bowls, changing the litter tray, or taking them out for a short walk in the garden on a leash (depending on the size of the dog) will educate children in pet care and teach responsibility. Moreover, it is essential that you teach kids to ask permission before touching other dogs or cats and to leave those that are in crates, tied ,or left in vehicles alone.
A peaceful coexistence between your kids and pets does not only imply educating children on proper behavior. Training your pet is crucial to a harmonious relationship. Work on basic commands such as sit or stay for dogs. If needed, enrol your dog to a school so that it can get obedience training. Try to provide a routine for your pet so that it has stability.
Think also of crate training in case you need to leave them alone in the house and avoid that they get into trouble. The crate may also be their place of retreat when they feel stressed or threatened. Again, your kids must learn that the crate is the pet’s own space and must be left alone.
Pets are fun for everyone in the family. However, making sure that they are well-trained and supervising pet-children interactions guarantee the safety of young kids.