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Pets and Young Children

Catherine Forman

Let's face it: some pets are better with young children than others are. Whether it is a pet you are familiar with, or a pet you are meeting for the first time, the best way to keep things under control is to keep yourself and your children calm.

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Exhibit A: My male dog.

Miko was a cranky old man. He didn't like kids, and he didn't like puppies. Anything young was out. If a child or young animal approached him, he immediately started to rumble to warn them off.

Exhibit B: My female dog.

Lally loves everybody. Our first Christmas together, we spent with friends. Friends who had a young daughter who thought Lally was just great for hugging. My patient little girl dog let that kid hang all over her and didn't once show her teeth or growl or anything.

Whether it is a pet you are familiar with, or a pet you are meeting for the first time, the best way to keep things under control is to keep yourself and your children calm. Sudden movements and/or loud noises can be scary to the animal in question.

  1. If you know in advance that you will be meeting an unfamiliar pet, explain to your children that the animal doesn't like loud noises.
  2. Let the animal approach you, crouch down with your child and hold out your hands for the dog or cat to sniff.
  3. Show your young child the right way to pet a dog or cat gently, and in the direction the fur grows.
  4. A lot of animals do not like having their heads touched. Don't immediately try to put your hand on top of their head! Ask the owner (if the pet belongs to a friend) where the animal likes to be petted.
  5. Keep your voice soft and warm. Dogs like to be talked to! With cats, it depends.

The situation is a little different if you and your child encounter a dog or cat on the street. If the animal approaches you, let it sniff, but don't chase it down to try and pet it! Half of the dogs you may encounter on an afternoon walk may be so busy sniffing that they won't even notice (or care) that you're around.

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