Teaching Children How to Interact with Animals
Teaching kids how to interact with animals is more important than ever.
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Why You Should Never Hug a Dog
As tempting as it might be for a child to cuddle or hug a dog—especially one who is extra fluffy like a plush toy—parents should tell their children to refrain. There are some dogs who don't enjoy this type of attention, but they tolerate it until it's too late.
“Dogs can't say that they've had enough, so they could bite to show that they want it to stop,” says Donna Reiss of Freedom Dog Training, a pet training service based in Staten Island.
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Handle small animals with care.
The most important thing to remember with small animals like rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils, is to handle them lightly because of their size and fragility.
“We have to remember to be gentle with animals, particularly the smaller animals, because we are much bigger than them,” Pownall Hartmann says. “Even when we think we're being gentle, we have to remember to be even more gentle, especially when it comes to something like a hamster or guinea pig.”
Some small animals don't mind being pet, but many don't like to be picked up because they don't feel safe when there is no ground beneath their feet. “We want to make sure the animal is comfortable and wants to be friends with us, so we want to make sure we are extra gentle and extra soft with them,” Pownall Hartmann adds.
How to Teach Your Kid Respect for all Animals
The most important lesson parents can teach their children about pets—and animals in general—is to have respect for all of them. “Animals are living, breathing creatures. Learning at a young age to be gentle and show compassion for animals is a lesson that will benefit a child,” Reiss says. “It's an important life lesson.”