4 Tips on How to Introduce a New Pet to Kids

Category_Adopt_Shelter_Animals Category_Dogs Category_Kids Category_Safety Writer_Audrey_Beim

Sparky Steps - 4 Tips on How to Introduce a New Pet to Kids

4 Tips on How to Introduce a New Pet to Kids

Your kids have been pleading and making that adorable sad face every time you turn around. So, you've finally given in and decided to adopt a family pet. The family has agreed to visit the local shelter and find a new companion that everyone can adore. But before you take the leap into becoming a pet parent, it would be wise to do some investigation on the best way to introduce your kids to your new family member. The initial meeting of kids and a new dog can influence their relationship with every animal they come into contact with in the future.


First Meeting Cautionary Tales

More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites.<1> At least half of those bitten are children. Pets who bite may not be aggressive. There are a variety of reasons dogs, cats, hamster, or even a rabbit will react in a negative manner:
  • the pet may bite to defend itself or its territory
  • they may be scared or have been startled
  • they feel threatened
  • they are protecting something that is valuable to them, like their litter, their food or a toy
  • they aren't feeling well

Unfortunately, dog aggression can have severe consequences for children, both physical and psychological. If there is a negative experience, a child can learn to fear dogs, or any animals, for life.


4 Tips for Welcoming a New Pet

Every Mom and Dad want their kid to have a positive experience when interacting with animals. This can be done by always supervising interactions between young children and their pets. These four tips can assure a long-term, happy bond between children and their four-legged friends:
  1. Educate

Teach your child how to interact with a dog when they first meet. Remember, children can be threatening to dogs since a small child is literally “in a dog’s face.” Experts advise the following when a child meets a new pet:
  • first, let your child offer a closed fist for the dog to sniff
  • then gently help them stroke the head and neck, avoiding more sensitive areas such as ears, tail, feet, and belly
  • explain that poking, squeezing or pulling at the dog are not acceptable
  • calm and quiet voices are a must during the first meetings
  • be a role model for your child and show them how to behave
  1. Identify Potential Problems

Reading a pet’s body language also can be helpful. You should avoid letting a child interact with a pet in these scenarios:
  • If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
  • If the pet is sleeping or eating
  • If an animal is injured
  • If a dog is growling or barking
  1. Warning Signs

When a small child can’t wait to pet or play with their new companion, they might be oblivious to warning signs. That is why it is essential that an adult supervise any and all interactions between a dog or puppy and a child. If an animal turns its head, walks away, puts its ears back, cowers, hides its tail between its legs or shows teeth, it’s crucial for children to know that this is not the proper time to play with their dog.
  1. Empathy

Introducing your new pet to your family is often an exciting time, especially for your children. However, it may cause some degree of stress to the dog. Help your children understand how your new pet might be feeling. Ask them how they might feel if they were placed into new and unfamiliar surroundings. Also spend some time explaining and showing them pictures of how their dog might behave if they are feeling happy, sad or frightened. Pets and children can make great companions. Children can learn responsibility, compassion, self-esteem, and loyalty. Use these ideas to get your kids and your new family member off to a positive and happy start in the long life they will share.


The Ultimate Good Deed

The advantages of adopting a pet from a shelter cannot be overstated.
  • Many animals end up in shelters because their owners can no longer care for them so they are often already house-trained which makes them ideal for adoption
  • Animals undergo full physicals when they are brought to a shelter and the staff makes sure animals are healthy before they are ready to be adopted
  • Many shelters spay and neuter and vaccinate animals before adoption, saving hundreds of dollars

And most importantly, adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue group is a feel-good experience because you know you have saved a life. But since one person cannot adopt every animal from an animal shelter, there are a variety other ways to help these furry friends stay happy and healthy.


Forming Bonds While Making a Difference

You can make a difference in an animal’s life. And at the same time, you can teach your children all sorts of wonderful life lessons about giving back, helping others and creating lifelong bonds. Animal shelters across the nation are forced to stretch their resources to the brink to accommodate an overwhelming population. Did you know that some shelter dogs rarely leave their kennels? When you walk a dog from a shelter with your child, you’ll not only help the dog, but you’ll create a common bond between you and your youngster. These walks not only benefit the canine companion, it also allows your child to get comfortable around a breed you might want to adopt in the future. If you prefer cats, why not volunteer with your kid to cuddle a kitten? Or just visit and hang out with a few of the animals. Every pet deserves a daily dose of love and kids have a lot of love to give.


When You Adopt

At Sparky Steps, our social mission is to help shelter animals find forever homes. Until all the shelters are empty, there are endless ways you can support your local agency. If your family wants to adopt a furry friend, but you are hesitant because you are concerned that you will not be able to provide everything your dog will require, do not let this stop you, we believe in you! We strive to create a socially responsible community and we are committed to increasing awareness that shelter pets are up for adoption.



Written by Audrey Beim


<1> https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx

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