Pet phobia: Calm your child’s pet fears

Does your child shriek or run away when a dog comes on the scene? Do cats have your tyke hiding behind your leg? As a vegan, you love animals and the last thing you want is your child to have a pet phobia. Though some kids warm right up to furry critters, others are terrified. Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, the nation’s largest doggy day and overnight pet care companies, shares five easy things we parents can do to ease our children’s fears of our pawed pals.
Does your child shriek or run away when a dog comes on the scene? Do cats have your tyke hiding behind your leg? As a vegan, you love animals and the last thing you want is your child to have a pet phobia. Though some kids warm right up to furry critters, others are terrified. Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, the nation’s largest doggy day and overnight pet care companies, shares five easy things we parents can do to ease our children’s fears of our pawed pals.

Can you empathize with your frightened child?

Much like your unfounded childhood fears of a monster under your bed, pets can present real life terror to your child. Your beloved household pet or that furry friend you want to bring into your home may be a source of fear, especially if your pawed critter is a barking dog or hissing cat. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and consider ways to comfort your kiddo as opposed to invalidating his or her fears. Ganahl, who has had years of experience with pets, recommends the following five tips to calm your child’s pet fears.

5 Tips to cure your child’s pet phobias before you get a pet
 
1. Teach your child good pet playing behavior

Since wriggling puppies or skittish cats can intimidate your child, use a stuffy to demonstrate appropriate petting and playing behavior. Ganahl explains, “Try showing your child how to interact with pets by using a stuffed animal. Show him or her how to safely play with a furry friend. A stuffed animal can make for a lovable practice buddy that your child will feel more comfortable around.”
 
2. Make story time about happy pets

“Read your child stories about happy pets and their owners,” suggests Ganahl. “Depending on your child’s age, this can greatly impact how they feel about dogs and cats.”
 
3. Be gentle with your child

“Forcing your child to pet an animal or insisting that a pet is harmless may only increase his or her fears,” warns Ganahl. “It’s important to keep your child calm around the dog or cat. If they are forced to make contact, it may only frighten them (or the animal) even more.” Give your child opportunities to make contact with a pet but don’t make playing with a pet mandatory or threaten your child with consequences if he or she doesn’t play with the dog or cat.
 
4. Make a pet play date

“Once your child stops fearing pets at a distance, it may be time to gradually introduce him or her to a friend or relative’s dog or cat,” says Ganahl. “At first, make introductions brief if your child seems hesitant. Over time, lengthen the amount of time he or she spends with a pet.”
 
5. Adopt a pet

Granahl recommends taking your child to a pet adoption site, and allowing them to pick out their new pet. “The excitement of having the pet of their choice, may be the incentive they need to let go of their fears,” she adds. “Camp Bow Wow franchises across the country offer adoption services, so be sure to visit your local branch.”

More vegan pet tips!

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