Growing up with a pet is great. When I was a kid, my cat was my cuddle buddy and we would play games with string, tin foil balls, and boxes. There were a few times when I’d accidentally annoy him and not realize it till he hissed or scratched me. To help avoid those incidences, there are a few things you can teach your child so that everyone is safe and understands the boundaries that pets have during playtime.
Here are 6 tips to promote positive interactions:
1: Teach your child to read the body language of your pet. A swishing tail of a cat, or a stare from the dog with a tense body stance can mean they are not feeling up to playing or need time alone. A low growl or hiss is a definite sign to leave the pets alone.
2: Teach your dog the word “Stop” and encourage your child to use during playtime when the dog gets overly excited and plays too rough.
3: Remind your children that the dog crate or cat bed is their “safe space” and to not disturb them when they are there. It’s as much a right for your pet as it is for your child to end a play session. If your dog or cat retreats to their spots, then that means they need some downtime.
4: When your child and pet are getting to know each other, make up some games that involve toys and words rather than direct touch. This helps minimize risk of nips, scratches, and pounces.
5: Show your child that asking your dog to sit, stay, and lay down can be a game too and let your child reward the dog with praise and treats. It helps establish in your dog’s mind that your child is a friend but also someone who controls the pace and playtime. Supervise these moments carefully to make sure your dog doesn’t get overly excited and grab the treat from your child’s hands.
6: If anyone gets upset or frustrated during playtime, then it’s time for a break. Time outs work well for the dog, cat, and child. It gives everyone a moment to calm down or to find another activity and de-escalates the chance of a negative interaction or accident.