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Your child’s early years have a profound effect on their development. Children’s experiences, along with environmental and socioeconomic factors affect brain development and have a long-term impact physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, a positive nurturing environment and stable support are very important.

A lot of parents focus on providing kids with learning activities, educational trips, social interactions, or educational toys. Positive relationships are also nurtured, and in some homes these relationships include pets.

Having animals in the home helps children learn how to handle responsibilities, develop mindfulness, and blossom in their self-confidence. The kids are also taught how to be kind to their pets, which is good training in patience and compassion. At the same time, pets can provide comfort, contact, and friendship.

So, if you’re thinking of introducing animals to your kids, it is important first and foremost to understand how to teach your children about animal safety. Taking the time to explain some basic animal safety rules can help keep the kids’ interactions with animals safe and positive.

Treat animals gently

One of the lessons children learn from having pets is how to handle them gently and calmly. Remind them that they should never physically hurt their pets or play rough with them and not to tug on their collars or leashes. Teach your child to be careful when lifting up small pets from cages, and how to hold these animals underneath their bellies. Show them how they shouldn’t pick them up or pull them by the ears, tails, or legs.

Give the animal space

Even in your own home with your own pets, animal safety is still a concern. 61% of dog bites occur in the home or another familiar place, and 77% of biting dogs were owned or known by the family. It is important to know when to give pets their space even when in your own home. Train your kids to leave animals alone when sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for their babies.

Learn animal body language

Animals show signs of their mood or temperament with body language. Dogs can show ease by tail-wagging or exhibit stress by growling or pacing, or cats can show aggression with hissing or arching their backs.

Teach the kids what signs to watch out for, and to respect those signs. If your child is able to exhibit mindfulness, this can help them control their reactions, be more aware, and remain calm when understanding an animal’s stress response. Learning the animal’s way of communication and knowing what to do can prevent potentially dangerous situations.

Greet animals slowly

Some house pets learn to be playful and greet their owners enthusiastically. But it is still best to teach kids to greet all animals slowly. Animals may interpret some human behaviors as threatening or startling. So, it’s important to remind kids to never scream at animals or make sudden movements. When approaching other people’s pets, remind kids to pause and ask permission first.

Always have supervision

It is imperative to supervise kids when with pets, especially when being introduced to or getting used to a new environment. Adults should always be there not only as a presence but be actively watching. Tell the kids to stay within your sight and reach when playing with animals. If close adult supervision is not available at the moment, kids and animals should be separated, just to be safe.

Never approach an unknown animal

Kids may be exposed to other animals outside, aside from other people’s pets. Wild animals may wander onto your yard, or your kids may encounter an injured animal while playing. Always remind children firmly to never approach strange animals. Aside from the fact animals may react aggressively and hurt your kids intentionally or accidentally, some wild animals actually also remain safe if humans don’t touch them.

Focus on health and cleanliness

Animal safety doesn’t only mean avoiding bites and attacks. Animals, even pets, can carry diseases and have their own emotional turmoil that children will have to adjust to.

Mindfulness can help you address a stressed or sick pet with patience, compassion, and presentness. It can also make the family be more attuned to cues that the animal needs attention.

Finally, some animals bring germs from dirt in their paws or fur, some may have parasites or ticks, and some can cause human diseases from contact with their waste. Keep pets cleaned, groomed, and vaccinated. Remind children to always wash your hands after touching animals, and animal belongings such as toys and bowls.