Children are inquisitive, little tykes and instinctively love touching animals, but to ensure the safe and happy relationship between pet and child it is best to follow along with some basic rules.
ASK FIRST Teaching children to ask before touching a pet, especially a strange one, is rule number one for child and pet safety. It is also a great way to show a child a respectful approach to animals from an early age.
PERSONAL SPACE Any human getting too full on and right in the face of any animal can make them feel confronted or “trapped”. Teach your child that quiet, indoor voices and a gentle approach is important so the animal is not startled by any overzealousness.
PETS ARE NOT FOR RIDING Carrying on from the previous point, pets are not meant to be ridden. Even the small body of a child can cause spinal injuries to a dog or cat if they bear the weight.
GENTLE PATTING Some children have a habit of being too rough with their patting. Some pets will weather it, others may feel like they are being smacked and may get defensive. To avoid this just requires a little practice. Use a stuffed toy and show the child from an early age what patting a pet “nicely” and in the right direction of the fur should be like.
WATCH THE SIGNS Most pets will be fine with the attention, some won’t be and others will have a time limit. Learn to recognise the signs of when a pet has had enough and teach kids to accept that when a pet walks away they shouldn’t chase after him or her as a little time out may be needed.
ALWAYS SUPERVISE There have been many cases of pet/child injuries that have happened while no one was looking. To avoid any problems, always supervise when they are together so you can see the signs and stop any problems occurring beforehand.
There's nothing quite like the bond you can get between a child and their beloved pet, and with a little preparation and a watchful eye you can ensure they grow to become firm friends!