Sometimes animals can scare kids. Dogs may come bounding at them with great enthusiasm and knock them down and cats may get scared and swat at them. Pets make loud noises, jump, and can get right in your face which can be frightening to kids. There are a few tips you can try to help your child understand that your family pet is not a monster but a friendly and silly family member.
1: Don’t force your child to pet or interact with your pet. Let your child come around to wanting to hang out and interact with the family pet on his/her own. If you force or insist, it can increase your child’s anxiety. Try to keep your dog or cat calm when around your child and vice versa.
2: Read read read. There are hundreds of books and stories for children where animals are either the lead character, are used as examples, or are the subject of learning. There are also stories about little kids and their best kitty or puppy friend. Try reading some of these stories to help your child’s fear of the family pet decrease.
3: Practice petting on a stuffed animal. Show your child how to pet gently and safely. This makes the interaction they will have in the future non-threatening for both the pet and your child.
4: Set play dates with intervals. Once your child seems to have relaxed and stops fearing your pet, it may be time to set up little intervals of play time. Supervise them and make sure neither one gets out of control. Keep it to small doses at first and try to make sure each play date ends on a positive note for your child and your furry friend.