Teaching Your Kids to Be Kind to Animals

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Be Kind to Animals Week is May 3rd-9th. In honor of this weeklong holiday, today we’re talking about how to teach your kids to be kind to animals. As children grow up, it’s important to teach them how to treat and relate to dogs, cats, and other pets so both the children and the animals can stay safe.

Here are a few strategies you can use as you teach your kids to be kind to animals:

Start Early

Some children, especially toddlers and young children, might be unkind to animals simply because they don’t know any better. Remember, kids don’t have the life experience that adults do. Some may have never seen a dog or cat up close before! They’ll need to be taught how to treat these animals.

Start early by encouraging toddlers to be gentle to animals. Demonstrate how and where to pet a dog or cat, including how to pet in the direction the fur goes. Gently but firmly discourage any hitting, grabbing, or tail-pulling and tell the child what they can do, instead. “Gentle” is the keyword as you teach your children how to pet and interact with an animal.

It’s also essential to teach kids early on to never try to take away a toy or get near your dog’s food bowl while he is eating. Make sure to also explain that you should never startle an animal, throw something at them, or yell in their face. Again, this could end badly for the child if a startled animal becomes aggressive.

Rules like this will keep everybody safe and happy. 

Teach Animal Body Language

Kids begin to understand human body language as they grow up because they’re exposed to it every day. But animal body language can sometimes be a little trickier. Talk with your children about how dogs and cats might act.

For cats, common signs of anger or discomfort include hissing, a straight tail, and a rigid body.

Reiterate to your children that if an animal is trying to get away from you, it’s best to let the animal go instead of forcing it to do what you want.

Ask Permission to Pet Other Animals

When it comes to other peoples’ pets, tell your children that they should never pet an animal without asking the owner first. Petting a strange dog can be dangerous — what if the dog doesn’t like children or has behavioral issues

This is also a great time to teach your kids about service animals. If you see a dog out in public wearing a vest, chances are that dog is either helping a person with disabilities or is being trained to do so. The dog is working, so don’t call out to the dog or distract him or her in any way.

Get Creative

If your child has grown up with a dog or a cat, they probably feel comfortable around animals. This can be both a good and a bad thing — good because they’re not afraid, but bad because they may not think about taking necessary precautions.

Your family’s dog is sweet and great with kids, so every dog must be the same, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case — and this is something kids don’t always understand.

Find ways to safely expose children to other animals so they can understand how every pet has a different personality, just like humans. You might try visiting a friend’s home, stopping by your local animal shelter, or asking to pet different dogs you see at the park.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.