Tuesday, June 10, 2014

No Puppy! {Carnival of Natural Parenting}

Welcome to the June 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Animals This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about kids and pets. ***

Kids and pets. When you're a pet-less family like us, it can create an interesting dynamic when around those with animals, especially in a city where most people have and treat them as well or better than family! It's not always easily accepted that my child might be afraid of your "child" even if you insist your beloved furry friend loves kids.

For the last year or so, if my girls see a dog walking across the street with its owner, they're all smiles and waves and "mom! a puppy! soooo cuuuute!" but when the owner sees how excited they are and wants to bring the animal over for a pet or a lick, it's all of a sudden sheer TERROR.

Then the owner feels awkward, or sometimes I feel like they are irritated that my kids are afraid, because "oh, he's really gentle/loves kids/won't bite," but try explaining that to a toddler when the animal's impressive jaws are directly at eye level with my kids' head. It doesn't always work out and I have to be OK that the animal's owner might not completely understand.

Unfortunately, despite my attempt to maintain an upbeat and confident attitude towards animals we meet in public coupled with a watchful eye, it seems like every time the girls put themselves out there, they have a bad experience. For instance, on a cheerful neighborhood walk, my newly-two year old getting excitedly tackled by a dog three times her size. That set us back for months! 

These are the tips and ideas I have for handling a fear of animals, from our very limited experience:
  • Accept the fear as real and don't try to minimize it, acknowledge their fear and reassure them that you will stay by and keep them safe. It's also a normal developmental stage for many kids.
  • Model. When you are approached by an animal, project confidence and use a strong voice when talking about it with your kids. For example: "Oh yes, here comes a puppy! It's so cute! And look, it's on a leash walking with it's mommy/daddy" and if they express fear, reassure them that you will keep them safe. "It seems like dog/cat/animal is making you nervous, but I am here to keep you safe." 
  • Read children's books about friendly animals.
  • Play helps kids work out anxieties! Get small stuffed animals - like beanie babies - and take care of them together.
  • When you meet a new dog/cat/animal, learn their name and use it when talking about the animal.
  • Something we've been doing lately that has become a special daddy-daughter event is watching cute animal videos on YouTube. The girls think the videos are hilarious and has definitely given them some happy subconscious food for thought about dogs and cats. 
  • Find comfortable situations to ease them into the presence of animals. We have neighbors who have a big German Shepherd and it's been good practice for us to visit, plus we'll talk about "Puppy Jake" afterwards. They are still cautious of him when he's around, but now they'll just stand next to me instead of crying and trying to clamor up my legs. I also make sure to pet Jake every time we see him.
  • Most importantly, give it time and patience. It can be kept to just a phase, so have grace for your kids and for yourself!
We've finally reached the point where the girls will say, "mom! I want that puppy to lick my finger!" which is HUGE step for us and although they only follow through on letting it happen 50% of the time, I'm confident they'll grow into happy animal lovers.

How do you handle your child's fear of animals? 

*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • What Animal Rescue is Teaching My Children
  • Tips on Picking the Perfect Kid-friendly Dog — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl shares some tips she's learned on how to find the perfect child-friendly dog for your family.
  • All New Animals Are "Woof" — Baby Boy is still learning animals. Life Breath Present doesn't yet have any at home, but he still believes that all animals are "woof." Here's the proof.
  • Dude, where's my Horse? — Adora loves horses, but Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different really doesn't. However, Adora's longing wins out; learn about their interactions with horses here.
  • Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Family Pet — When is a family ready for a pet? Donna at Eco-Mothering discusses her worries as well as the benefits of adopting a dog, including how it will affect her seven-year-old daughter.
  • Parenting Challenge--Learning from Animals--running the emotional gammut — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about the emotional learning her family has experienced through sharing their lives with animals.
  • Puppy Love for our Family — In case you didn't catch it from the blog title, Pug in the Kitchen, the family pet is an integral part of Laura's family and home life!
  • Vegetarianism and Animal Rights: Explaining to Children — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook is mostly vegetarian...not 100%, and not because of animal rights...yet she has found that the idea of not hurting animals is the aspect of vegetarianism most easily understood by a young child. She explains what her son has learned about not eating meat and how it has affected his social life.
  • Pets & kids: The realities — Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the benefits and drawbacks of pet ownership when young kids are involved.
  • HOW PETS CONNECT WITH EMOTIONS: KIDS & PETS AFTER 9-11 — Parenting Expert Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence discusses the importance of pets in lowering stress after traumatic situations, why children choose certain pets, the loss of a pet, and the role of parents in teaching care-giving to animals in a warm, gentle way.
  • It's not our house without a dog! — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work describes why giving a loving and disciplined home to at least one shelter dog at a time enriches the life of her family, and has become a vivid memory in the minds of her children.
  • Canine Haikus — Kids, dog, haikus, at
    Dionna (Code Name: Mama).
    Pet-centric poems.
  • Beanie's BunniesOur Mindful Life's Sofi Bean has gotten her first pets!
  • Montessori Care of Pets — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her experiences with kids and pets and shares Montessori resources for pet care.
  • How to Nurture Your Child's Awareness of Spirit Guides — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a post from her regular contributor Lauren of SpiralElixir.com. Lauren looks at the concept of animals as spirit guides and how deeply children are connected to this realm. She also encourages us to open ourselves up as parents to the reality that children are naturally more connected to the animal world, giving us ideas on how to nurture their relationships with their Spirit Guides.
  • No Puppy! — Meg at the Boho Mama shares her tips for dealing with toddlers and the (very real) fear of animals.
  • Year of the Pets — Jorje of Momma Jorje wasn't sure she ever wanted pets again, but things have changed a lot this year!
  • 3 Reasons Why Keeping Backyard Chickens is Good for my Toddler — Bianca, The Pierogie Mama, started keeping backyard chickens for the benefit of their eggs, but what she wasn't prepared for was what they would teach her two year old daughter too.


  1. These are great tips! We haven't had much fear of animals with our kids — the opposite, in fact, where I have to remind them (sometimes by grabbing bodily) that we have to approach strange dogs with caution instead of abandon. But I was often afraid of large or noisy dogs as a child, and these would have been great with me! When you're a kid, dogs are BIG, sometimes bigger than you.

  2. Really great tips. We have a dog and I am always mindful when children come over. He's a sweet boy, but just like you said that may not be the impression that he makes on another child when he's excited to see them.

  3. A great list of tips! Sometimes it's hard to remember that there was a time for each of us before we became animals lovers. And yes, when the animal in question is bigger than you are, it is intimidating. I am still a bit leery of our donkey and she is as gentle as can be.

  4. Wonderful tips, Megan! I pinned your post to my Stress-Free Kids Pinterest Board: http://www.pinterest.com/debchitwood/stress-free-kids/ :)

  5. This is a great post with wonderful tips. People do forget that just because their pet is friendly, doesn't mean every child walking by is cool with it. And dogs especially pick up on those vibes and it can change their demeaner. I'm thankful on the one hand that my daughter is a huge animal lover but on the other hand, it presents its own share of issues.

  6. Great post and wonderful tips! My kids have all been fascinated by animals, but freak out when pets (down at their level) make eye contact! If the animal turns around and/or walks away, my kids would chase them, but turn back around and we are back to screaming. Its been interesting. I've mostly picked my child up when they are experiencing that level of fear. I definitely appreciate opportunities to touch pets in-arms where the pet is more controlled AND the child feels safest.

  7. I have always appreciated pets till the time I got ringworm from my Ketty (cat).. I took almost 3 weeks to go away, that too after I used tea tree oil soap... I am still trying to forget it.. I hope your tips will help me to get closer to pets again... :)


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