Pets have a myriad of benefits for children and adults alike, with a 2022 study by the American Academy of Neurology finding that having a dog or cat (especially for five years or longer) is linked to slower cognitive decline in older adults. The key to this effect is the ability to reduce stress.
Having pets also has a myriad of physical benefits. They help boost human activity, as adults and kids tend to exercise more in the great outdoors when they have pets. Also, children who grow up with pets in the home have a lower likelihood of developing asthma. Pets provide unconditional love and companionship, they help lift human mood, and they even motivate kids to be better readers. If you have just adopted a dog or cat and you are excited about taking him or her home to meet your children, keep the following tips in mind.
Allow Your Pet to Take the Lead
Your new pet will undoubtedly be overjoyed to take their first steps in your new home, but they may also feel a little nervous, insecure, or overwhelmed. Role play with your kids so they know how to behave when your dog walks in. Instead of heading towards the dog, they should stay where they are sitting or standing and, if possible, turn sideways towards a new pet and keep their hands by their sides. Teach them to avoid looking a new dog straight in the eye, as this might be misinterpreted as aggression. Encourage them to wait until the dog approaches them and has a sniff of their feet and/or hands. A dog that wags its tail or a cat that rubs its body against its new humans is clearly ready to be stroked and loved. Not all dogs and cats enjoy being hugged, so ask your kids to be patient before getting physically close to their new pet.
Find Appropriate Places to Play
Many pet owners don’t mind having their pooches or kitties with them on the couch. However, if you prefer to keep your couch totally hair-free, you may want to interact with your pet on the carpet or rug. If so, set ground rules from the start so that your kids know that their furry BFF is to be kept off the couch. Keep your carpet clean by using a vacuum that is specifically made to pick up pet hair. To keep older rugs pristine, use a DIY combination of warm water and white vinegar. Use a soft brush to gently brush your rug back and forth, testing for color fastness before cleaning the whole rug. Hang your rug to dry in a safe, clean area. Keep various beds around the common areas of your home, so your pet is more likely to rest in their bed than on the floor or furniture.
Tap into the Power of Touch
If you have younger children, use soft toys to show them the appropriate way to pet animals. Teach them the parts of the body that dogs and cats enjoy being caressed. For instance, dogs love a chest pat or a gentle massage on the back of the neck. Most also enjoy a soft rub on their lower back (above the tail). On the other hand, pets do not like their ears or tail being pulled and they may not enjoy their paws being touched. In fact, these actions can be very painful and can result in a dog snapping. Remain in the room whenever your children are with your pet, keeping an eye on how they interact with each other.
Pets have a vast array of benefits for people of all generations in a household. Your kids will build a strong bond with their new pet in no time. Simply teach your children to be patient and gentle with your pet, and ask them to help you feed your pet and keep the areas it inhabits tidy.