The friendship of a dog is beautiful and unconditional. Teaching your kid to be pet friendly goes a long way in teaching them compassion and respect for other living creatures. Growing up with dogs in the family is the best way to get children accustomed to them, but with busy schedules and more independent living, all of us may not have that option. Fear of dogs when it comes to kids can stem from various factors – inexperience or ignorance, maybe a previous bad experience, or sometimes, even from a parent who is fearful of dogs. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re trying to get a child to stop being fearful of our furry friends.
Early exposure to dogs can result in children growing up with fond memories of animals and these impressions tend to last. You can start as early as when your child is a year old and just beginning to get his/her bearings in life.
PICK THE RIGHT MUTT Begin by introducing the child to a friendly adult dog that is well socialised with children, and hence, knows how to be calm around them. This means no jumping on kids or play biting or any behaviours that might scare an already apprehensive child. While puppies are smaller and super cute, they are still in the learning phase, and might be a bit nippy sometimes. This can actually end up frightening the child more – a reason why an adult dog is always preferable.
FIND COMMON GROUND
Involve the dog in an activity your kid enjoys. If he/she likes going to the park they can meet there, if he/she plays a sport the dog can watch them there, or if they go for an evening drive or stroll the dog can tag along. This way the child associates having the dog around for all fun activities and then looks forward to meeting the dog.
DON’T FORCE IT
When you’re introducing your child to a dog, don’t force any interactions. If your kid is so afraid that s/he won’t go near a dog then the first couple of times s/he may just watch the dog, or toss a toy without necessarily going near him/her. He or she can even interact with the dog just by walking along side, or reading while sitting in the same room. There’s no need for any physical contact if your child isn’t comfortable. You can ease your child into petting the dog at a later stage
Dog introductions can start as early as when children are a year old. Early exposure to dogs resulting in positive experiences will ensure that those kids grow up with fond memories that will last a lifetime.
The writer is a Mumbai-based dog trainer and animal behaviourist
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8 tips to make your dog happy
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