Whether your child and the family pet are just getting to know each other or are well on their way to becoming lifelong friends, consider the following tips to help enrich their relationship, while keeping them both safe.
1. Create games that require your child to rely on words and toys. To minimize risk of anyone being accidentally injured because of excitement, it’s good to teach a child to use verbal communication rather than direct physical contact with a pet.
2. Teach a child to read an animal’s body language and identify signs the pet wants to be left alone. A pet should be respected and left alone when he or she retreats to a bed or crate for resting, as well as when eating.
3. Demonstrate the basics of bite prevention (as dogs can get overexcited and unintentionally use their mouth), such as rolling into a ball, protecting hands and face and calling for help, rather than running or screaming.
4. Instruct a child to always ask permission before approaching to pet or stroke an unfamiliar animal in the neighborhood or at the park.
5. Restrict your child from playing with an animal’s toys and vice versa. Note: Balloons are hazardous to both animals and small children.
6. Teach your child and pet rules to ensure positive, controlled interactions. When playing a game involving dog treats or toys, teach the dog he or she must sit before earning the reward. Many dogs jump up or grab at objects kids are offering, and knock over or accidentally bite in enthusiasm. This can scare or injure a child, and teach a dog he or she can get by simply taking.
7. Stop play for a brief time-out if things are getting too rough. For kids, one minute for every year of age is the general rule. For pets, 30-60 seconds is reasonable.
Courtesy of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For more information, visit www.aspca.org/pet-care/kids-and-pets.
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