Stuffed animals can look like the puppies and kittens that live in the neighborhood – and while that’s a cute thing, which acclimates children to the idea that there are other sentient beings sharing our space, it does. do not prepare them for this first meeting.
The result is often a cry of joy from the child at this first meeting and intense fear on the part of the little animal. It’s doubly bad because they not only react to hyper body language, but also to high-pitched screams that puncture their eardrums. The fear is real.
The American Association of Animal Rescue Professionals calls for teaching children to use their “inner voices” around cats and dogs. “Animals are often afraid of children because they enjoy screaming, screaming and screaming, so teaching children to use their inner voices around animals will help keep the animal from being scared. Teaching them to talk softly to animals also encourages care and kindness, ”he says.
Veterinarian Nurse Laurel Osgood of the Al Barsha Veterinary Clinic told Gulf News in a previous interview, “All children should be closely supervised when interacting with pets until they are enough. old to interact with them appropriately. Children must be taught… to respect the animal’s limits and to understand when the animal communicates that it does not like what the child is doing.
Ask for consent
And so the first step in meeting a new friend – as in humans – is asking permission from the furry baby’s mother.
Samantha Vince, Managing Director of Dubai-based Dogwalk, explains: “The first thing to do when meeting a new dog is to ask the owner if it’s okay to come over and say hello. The owner will tell you if all is well or not. Keep in mind that the reasons for the owner to say no may be that the dog is extremely nervous and / or responsive, or may be training. You have to respect their decision anyway.
Once you have the green signal, it is time to teach the child the right and wrong approach. Pet Station Group dog trainer Mohammad Ghannaj says pouncing on a pet is a big no-no. “It’s wrong for children to go running behind animals at the first meeting; they will end up scaring the dog who will be able to growl or even bite.
It is best, he said, for the child to wait for the dog to approach him and sniff an outstretched hand.
“If the owner agrees that you can greet the dog, try to keep your body language as neutral as possible. This means that you should keep your body slightly away from the dog, without direct or prolonged eye contact. The dog should then be free to approach you without straining on his own terms, ”Vince adds. When making eye contact with a dog, it is seen as a challenge and may force him to act (unwanted).
Good contact, bad contact
We educate children from an early age about appropriate and inappropriate encounters – for this next step, the same language can be used to teach them the appropriate petting behaviors. “When going to pet a dog, try to avoid putting your hand directly on the head, as it can be unsettling for a dog when it first meets you. Try to touch your shoulder or chest and keep your movements calm and steady, ”says Vince.
Ghannaj says that if a dog accepts you, you can usually stroke their head, chin and stomach – “almost like a massage”; but, he warns, they don’t like having their paws touched.
Some dogs are friendlier
Like people, some dogs and cats are friendlier than others. But if there is an element of racial predisposition, much of it depends on life experience. “We have seen rescue dogs that are friendlier than the Labrador or the Golden Retriever and we have rescue dogs that are aggressive, they always come for behavioral training – it depends,” Ghannaj told Gulf News in a report. previous interview. Having an abusive past can mean distrust of people, which can translate into hostility or aggression.
Body language is important
Most dogs – but not all – will growl or bark before rushing to bite. Either way, they will show signs of fear; fight or flight. “If a dog is uncomfortable with your attention, he may try to pull away, lower his head / ears, or become stiff. If you see any of these signs, stop your petting and give the dog some room to move away if they want to, ”says Vince.
Another easy indicator is the condition of the tail: standing and wagging, the dog is in a friendly mood; down, the dog is unhappy, says Ghannaj.
Christos Savvidis, Dog Trainer at Dogwalk, talks about teaching by doing. “As your children grow older, you need to make sure that they interact with all dogs in a caring and gentle manner. They will learn from you, so show them the right way to pet and handle a dog from a young age, ”he said.
The Animal Rescue Professionals Association adds that while an animal’s tail can be hypnotic to a child, they should be warned not to pull it. He says, “Children are fascinated by animal tails. It is important to teach children that pulling on the tail of a dog or cat is like pulling your hair. It hurts and we certainly don’t want to hurt the animal, so we shouldn’t. This gives them a point of reference and helps teach them empathy for animals.
It’s not just dogs that can be afraid of an enthusiastic child. Ghannaj, who also has a cat, says that because his cat is used to a torrent of people, he’s got used to it and is okay with new company, but not all cats are. – they can be stressed in ‘friendly child’ situations and may hiss and crack. Vince says, “The same rules apply to the calm of the approach, but unlike dogs, cats generally prefer to be patted on the head and face around the facial glands. Some cats also like the scratches on the back / near the base of the tail, but every cat is different – the owner usually knows the cat’s favorite place to pet them, so you can ask them what they prefer.
Use these cuddly little stuffed animals to explain – a soft touch, soothing sound, and a loving pet can go a long way in making lifelong four-legged friends.
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