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Take the Bite Out of Your Kid's Fear of Pets
However, since experts claim it's good for kids to be around dogs and other pets, it pays to help your children overcome their fears of the four-legged set.
"Your children's pets are much more than pals -- they can also teach them some valuable lessons about life," Cesar Millan, who has been called the Dr. Phil of pets, says on his website. Milan, who hosts National Geographic's popular TV series, "Dog Whisperer," says he believes it's good for all kids to grow up around dogs.
So, what's a parent to do if a child loses it at the sight of Lassie?
Heidi Ganahl, founder, president and CEO of Camp Bow Wow, one of the largest pet care franchises in North America, offers a five-step program to get kids physically and psychologically acclimated to animals.
"Let's face it: Animals can be scary to some children," Ganahl says in a release. "They make loud noises, jump and lick your face, which, to a child, can be traumatizing."
What's more, children need to be taught how to behave around dogs. Pulling tails and grabbing food or toys out of the dog's mouth are no-nos, she says. Here are her tips for helping kids face their animal fears:
1. Don't force contact. Forcing your child to pet an animal or insisting that a pet is harmless may only increase your child's fear. It's important to keep your child calm around the dog or cat. If they are forced to make contact it may only frighten your child (or the animal) even more.
2. Create story times. Read your child stories about happy pets and owners. Depending on your child's age, this can greatly impact how your child feels about dogs and cats.
3. Practice petting. Try showing your child how to properly act around pets with a stuffed animal. Show him or her how to gently pet and safely play with their furry friend. This makes for a lovable practice buddy that your child can feel more comfortable around.
4. Arrange play dates. Once your child stops fearing pets at a distance, it may be time to try introducing him or her to a friend or relative's dog or cat in doses.
5. Adopt a pet. Take your child to a pet adoption site, and try letting your child pick out a new pet. The excitement of having a pet of his or her choice may be the incentive needed to lose the fear.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.