1) Always ask the owner before petting. Sometimes while on walks we come across neighbors walking their dogs. The kids have learned to always ask, although we have yet to meet a dog they couldn’t pet.
2) Never get right in an animal’s face. Just like humans, pets have a “bubble” too. Getting right in their face can make them feel confronted, which could lead to them being scared or angry.
3) Practice petting gently with a stuffed animal. When my youngest was about to turn 1, our cat – Potatoe – decided that she was comfortable going near him. We encountered the problem of my son not realizing how hard he was “petting” her. We used a stuffed animal, as well as older siblings at times, to learn “pet nice.” We showed him how to pet, both softly and so it wasn’t rubbing the hair the wrong way.
4) Pay attention to when a pet is ready to be left alone. Even pets that enjoy playing with kids get tired after awhile, and it’s important that children acknowledge when they are done playing. Teaching kids to pay attention to things like body language is a good idea, as well as to not chase a pet once they walk away.
5) Use an inside voice, and try not to roughhouse. Yelling and/or screaming can scare or excite pets. The same goes for playing rough. In some cases they may feel threatened by it, and react negatively. Probably the hardest thing for my two youngest children is not yelling and screaming. Thankfully, they know now that it scares our cat, and they stop doing so when she is around.