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Being Kind to Pets

As rough-and-tumble as toddlers can be, they're the perfect age to learn how to be gentle with animals. They're naturally drawn to furry creatures, so they have a real interest in learning how to act around them. Plus, toddlers are starting to see beyond themselves and understand the effect their actions have on others. To teach your toddler about animals:

Proceed with caution. Don't leave your child alone with an animal, and when meeting a new dog or cat, first ask the owner if her pet is familiar with children. You're teaching your child to wait before reaching for or approaching a strange animal.

Lend a hand. Hold your child's hand palm down and have her curl her fingers in, like a paw. Then show her how to hold it out for a dog (or a cat) to sniff.

Give your own animals their space. Tell your toddler not to bother your dog when he's eating or to reach for the cat when she's sleeping.

Demonstrate \"gentle.\" Toddlers don't know their own strength, so guide your child's open hand to show how gently to pet. Or tell her to use just one or two fingers, and stick to the animal's side.

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