Recently, my sister and her husband adopted a second dog named Reni. Reni is a sweet dog with a lot of energy, very quiet - and surprisingly good with kids. Not all dogs appreciate having a toddler run around and be in their face, or the temptation of having food at their mouth level - not all dogs deal with that well, but Reni does! And so does Soleil. Shepard has known Soleil since he was born. She's been wonderfully tolerant of him learning the word "gentle" and how to pet a dog. And in exchange for his dropped food, Soleil protects Shep and gives me no worries.
Since Shep has had dogs in his life from birth, we've made a choice to intentionally choose to teach him Pet Safety. He's still learning to be patient and not get too over-excited, but he is appropriately cautious around new dogs. Here's a few of the guidelines we have taught Shep that one day, they tell me, he might even follow.
Dogs Wearing Vests
When a service animal is wearing their vest, they are at work. Even if you cannot see a disability, don't assume that service dogs exist for you to pet. Interacting with a service dog - calling to them, playing with them, petting them, or even just getting too close to them - can cause a service dog to miss a signal from their owner. So - leave service animals alone!
Look, Don't Touch
In the same vein, all animals should be left alone. We can look at them, but we don't have to touch them. If my son wants to touch an animal, he first has to ask the owner's permission. Then, he has to ask the dog's permission - usually extending a hand toward the dog for them to sniff.
Know Your Warning Signs
It's also important to know cues that a dog is not interested and needs some space. These include raised hair, flat ears, a tucked tail, and showing teeth. Teach your kids to understand what the dog is feeling and to walk away if the dog isn't happy.
We're still working on this. To his credit, he's usually pretty gentle with pets, but Shep is also easily excitable. Sometimes when he hits an animal, the animal hits back. Namely, his aunt and uncle's cat. And it serves him right - he earned the beatdown by being a jerk to the cat.
Let The Animal Come To You
My guiding principle is this, "You have to let the cat/dog/bird/turtle decide that it wants to be your friend." It hasn't steered me wrong. Essentially, this is just about giving an animal their space and it's a hard one for my son to catch on to. But, it's a way to teach them autonomy and self-control, so I'm going to keep trying to guide him with this one.
I'm not an animal expert, so *DISCLAIMER* fact check everything I just told you. But if you care about your kids - and the animals in their lives - it's best to keep everyone covered. Good fences make good neighbors, right?
How did you teach your kid animal safety? Did you have to train your animal not to hurt the baby? Share your pawspective with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3.