Since birth, the girls have been around animals–we have two pets; our cat, Nala, and dog, Kaida. We have modeled gentle touch towards our four-legged loved ones with E and V since the beginning. Nala and Kaida have safe places that they can go when they need alone time. These are areas where they are protected from the girls. While E and V are generally very gentle with touch, we are still working on respecting Kaida and Nala when they need space, just as we respect the girls when they need alone time from each other, but it will come in time.
To help them practice gentle touch, as infants and without laying hands on the animals, I used a fluffy feather. I would hold the feather and show them a soft stroke and then hold it so that they may do the same. If they grabbed the feather, I would gently remove it and show them, again, gentle petting. This way the animals were protected from any accidental roughness and the girls were able to practice, practice, practice.
While we ask owners if we may pet their dog, of course, we then ask for permission from the dog–by holding out our hand. Just as someone would ask, when the girls were little if they may hold them, they need to ask permission from the girls too, as it’s their body.
We practice sitting still and allowing animals to come to us. Holding out a hand is encouraged, it’s like offering our hand out for a handshake, and then it’s up to the animal to decide if they want to sniff and/or come in for a pet. Even great-grandma’s chickens receive this treatment. E sat and held out her hand and the chicken decided that she was trustworthy enough to pet her.
The girls are taught that we treat all living-beings (animals, insects, plants, etc) with kindness, respect, and love. While this may seem silly to some, it’s important to us. I just can’t bring myself to be okay with purposely stomping on ants but then telling them to be kind to each other.
Being that we have been treating our furry family members with love and kindness, since the beginning, we haven’t had too many issues with roughness. There has been a few times someone becomes a little too excited, but usually a gentle reminder from us is all that is needed.
There was an instance of ear pulling and Kaida. While not too rough, it is still not the way we treat our beloved dog. “That’s not how we treat Kaida. We don’t pull her ears. I wouldn’t want my ears pulled nor would you want your ears pulled. This is how we pet her, nice and gentle. Can you show me a nice and gentle pet?”
We are very lucky as both Kaida and Nala are really calm and patient with the girls. They both see themselves as E and V’s protectors, too. When they would cry as infants, Nala would come to Hubby and I to get our attention; it was the sweetest. When the girls start to get a little rough, she’ll put her paw on them, as if telling them to cool it a bit. If it continues, she’ll leave.
We have found that consistency has been one of the main influences that encourage the girls to treat animas well–that, and of course, our loving example.
Early on, we would give the girls treats to give to Kaida and Nala, so they saw E and V higher in the hierarchy. Now, E and V ask to give them treats because the girls love how happy it makes their furry loved ones.
How do you encourage gentle touch and kindness with pets and other animals?