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Children handling pets

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Children Handling Pets

At some point in their lives, your child will probably ask for a pet, whether it’s a pony or a pooch. Some parents might consider buying their child a pet as they get older to help give them a sense of responsibility or you may already have a menagerie of animals already part of the family. It is natural for children to want to get to know and handle their pets but it is also really important to ensure children handling pets are taught what is appropriate and how to handle animals safely.

Which pet would be suitable?

Consider what kind of animal would be suitable and the age of the child. Whether the animal is small or large, every pet should be handled and treated with respect and children should always be supervised with them. Young children under seven tend to put their hands in their mouths and often pick up bacteria from animal coats so try and limit physical contact. Older children should also ensure their hands are thoroughly washed after handling any animal and as much as your child may love their new friend, don’t let them kiss or squeeze them; apart from transferring bacteria to the mouth, animals don’t like to feel restricted in any way and may bite or scratch to get away.

Think about where the pet is going to live and if your child is responsible enough to care for it. Children often like their hamsters and gerbils to live in their bedrooms with them, if so, set out some ground rules for your child to follow, making sure they don’t get their pet out without an adult around, that they will clean them out regularly and they are to make sure they always have food and water to give them responsibility and good pet care knowledge. Teach them not to put their fingers through the cage, not to be noisy or make sudden movements which may frighten an animal and not to ever trap or restrain their pet in any way. They should never pull, tug or be rough with an animal and children should be made aware that if they aren’t handling their pet properly, animals can bite!

kids handling pets

Children and dogs

If you’re thinking about getting a larger animal such as a dog, think about what kind will be suitable for your child and the cost involved in caring for it. Dogs from shelters can be the most loving and perfect family pet, but they can also be an unknown as no-one is truly aware of its background and most shelters won’t let a family adopt a dog if they have children under 12. Children will need to understand your dog isn’t a toy and while a nip from a rabbit can be painful, a bite from a dog can be fatal, so teach them appropriate handling from before you even bring your dog home. Create a calm environment and although children will get overexcited at the introduction of their new family member, they need to remember that it can be a stressful transition for an animal. Give the dog space and let it settle to its environment before letting children stroke and pet them and make sure your dog has his own area to relax in away from the excitement.

Never let your children climb into your dog’s bed or crate with them, dogs can become fearful when trapped and snap out of self defence. Children should be confident yet gentle when stroking or handling a dog but don’t let children constantly pick up puppies or small dogs.

Dogs should get used to being handled but not overstimulated which can lead to nipping, so limit when your child picks up the dog and always supervise them. Some children are naturally drawn to dogs, so if you’re out and about don’t let your child just run up and pet it. Always ask the owner if it’s OK for your child to stroke the dog and suggest your child scratches the dog’s chest rather than a pat on the head. You should never let your child approach a dog while it’s eating, let them put their hands through a fence or cage to stroke it and you should encourage your child to talk gently to a dog when it’s asleep before waking it.

You should teach your child to look out for signs that an animal is distressed, angry or unhappy. Growling and bearing teeth are obvious signs in a dog and smaller animals can grunt, lay their ears back and stamp feet and children should also be careful when handling sick animals who may want quiet time alone to recover. Animals can be very unpredictable and should always be handled with care and respect. Teaching your child appropriate behaviour around animals will develop confidence, built trust and create a beautiful bond between them.

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About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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