Lisa asks: How do you get your kids comfortable around dogs?

There are three dogs in the family, and Lisa's girls are kind of scared of all of them.

My new nephew, Sebastian, and his doggy, Meeka.

Up until the summer before I turned 17, we weren’t a “pet” family. I had two goldfish when I was in grade one-ish. That’s it. Me and my sisters often begged for a puppy, but my dad wanted (and still wants) nothing to do with the mess and work that comes along with having a dog. Then, in 1996, I somehow talked my parents into letting me get Turtie, a beautiful red-eared slider who turns 17 this August. With me coming from a turtle home, and Peter coming from a cat home, neither of us have much experience with “man’s best friend”, and we certainly don’t know how to get our kids to be comfortable around them.

There are three dogs in our family: my sister and her family have a tiny, adorable, yappy little thing named Meeka; my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law have a rambunctious, cute, mamma’s boy Lab named Boomer; and Peter’s sister and her husband have an energetic, strong, pretty Vizsla that they just rescued. (There were three other beautiful dogs in the family — Alex, Nicki and Mandy — that passed away, but the girls don’t really remember interacting with them.) Anyway, whenever, say, little Meeka — a dog so small I can hold her with one hand and cuddle her with the other — is around, the kids get excited, but they also freak out. They don’t want to be licked, they don’t want to be chased and they aren’t fans of the barking. They scream, cry, run and act like nuts.

We met Peter’s sister’s new dog last weekend and, while I couldn’t wait to meet her, I was nervous about how the kids would react to her, and vice versa. I found it hard to explain to Addy and Peyton that the doggy was barking because she was excited; that if they run away from her she’ll think they’re playing a game and she’ll run after them; that licking is how a dog gives kisses; and that if they act afraid and don’t let her sniff them, they’ll scare the dog (which they thought was ludicrous, since the dog is much bigger and stronger than both kids put together). They eventually warmed up to her (especially after watching her get on my lap on the couch and cuddle with me — I made a new pal), but were still wary.

Since I have no experience with getting kids comfortable around animals, I’m looking for some advice. (Interestingly, neither kid is scared of my Turtie, who still lives at my parents’. They watch her in the tank, play with her when she’s out walking around, feed her and talk to her. The only one afraid of my pretty turtle is my 59-year-old father — who’s known Turtie since he was a young 43 — but I digress.)

I want the kids to relax when they’re around dogs (as well as the three cats they know) Anyone have any tips?

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