You may have found the most docile, most affectionate, and most child-friendly dog in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean problems are not going to arise between your dog and your little tot. Toddlers, as you know, are very fond of pulling tails, grabbing more than a handful of doggie hair, and even compete with their dog in playing with their doggie toys. This can make your dog nervous around a toddler. It may even snap and bite at your kid. Keeping the peace between your tot and your dog is one of your most important responsibilities now that you’re a parent to both a kid and a hound. Here are a few pieces of advice for you to ensure you don’t get any problems between your dog and toddler.
Socialize and Train Your Dog as a Puppy
Some pet parents have this belief that puppies’ brains are still immature that they will not be able to learn the things that they are going to be trained with. On the contrary, if you look at dog training books, the number 1 recommendation is to start canine training during puppyhood. Depending on the breed of the dog, you can start training as early as 8 weeks old while others can do so at 6 weeks. Puppies are like sponges that can absorb almost every bit of knowledge and skill that you impress on them. Obedience training your puppy can go a long way to ensuring the peace between it and your toddler.
Like training, socializing your puppy is critical because the more people and other animals it gets to interact with at a very early life, the more it is likely that your puppy will grow up to become a really friendly and sociable dog. Unfortunately, you may have to be choosy with the people you want to introduce to your puppy. They should be friendly, too.
Teach Your Dog How to Like and Love Being Handled
One of the things that you can do to help prepare your pet for your rambunctious tot is to handle every conceivable part of its body. Touch and hold its tummy, limbs, tail, paws, neck, shoulders, ears, and even head. Gently tug on its tail or even rub its fur. Hold its paws or even whisper something into its ear. The thing is you are acclimatizing your dog to the typically uncoordinated movements and handling of tots.
When teaching your dog to learn to accept this ‘uncoordinated’ handling, it is best to praise it and reward it for being so calm and accepting. Have its favorite dog toys on hand so you can reinforce such behavior. Treats work as well. Sooner or later, your dog will learn to associate being handled rather roughly to mean a ‘not-so-bad’ idea. In fact, if you are consistent in your positive reinforcement, your dog might even associate such actions with good things.
Teach Your Toddler How to Properly Pet Your Canine Friend
When teaching your kid how to properly pet your dog, it is important to be patient and show perseverance. Just like training your dog, teaching your little one requires consistency so that he or she will get the message.
Start by sitting with your little tot on your lap. Call your dog to come to you and let it sit near you. Extend your hand just under your pet’s nose so that it will begin sniffing your hand. Hold your child’s hand and extend it towards the dog’s nose and allow your pet to sniff it, too. Now say “sniff hand” or some other phrase that you want your child to remember and associate with the behavior.
Next, gently pet your hound. Let your child see what you are doing. Again, take his or her hand and do the same thing, caressing your dog’s coat or even simply touching it with your tot’s little hands. Say “gentle” so that your kid will know what you mean by the word.
In case your toddler cannot resist the urge to tug on your dog’s fur or do anything that is considered rough, tell your toddler “no” in a firm yet non-threatening manner. Explain to your tot that doing this can hurt your pet. If your child persists on being rough, move him or her away and let your child to calm down first before you reinitiate the training.
Doing this for at least 10 minutes several times a day should help your young child learn how to properly pet his or her dog. This handling exercise can also help as your child grows older as he or she will feel safer even around dogs that your child doesn’t know.
Teach Your Child to Learn to Respect the Your Dog’s Stuff
The “me” and “mine” in the toddler is strong. Most don’t have the concept of sharing yet. For them, everything they see is theirs. And yes, even the dog toys and doggie food bowls, treats, beds, and other items that you may have bought for your pet. Your little rascal will own these if you don’t make the effort to teach him or her to respect the things that are not his or hers.
This can be quite dangerous since there are dogs that can be especially aggressive when it comes to their food. They don’t like anyone to be meddling with their stuff. As such, it is imperative that your child learns to leave the things of your pet alone. Make sure to move your toddler away from the food bowl of your pet. If your child is already a preschooler or of school age, you can show your child how to feed your dog and why it is important to move back or away so your dog can eat.
The same is true with your dog’s other belongings such as dog toys. Don’t let these playthings lying around so your child will not have access to them. Give your child his or her own toy to play with instead.
Always Adhere to Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement works for both your tot and your dog. While toddlers are known for their ‘negativistic’ tendencies, with ‘no’ being their favorite word, you can somehow change this by reinforcing desirable behaviors and not giving attention to the undesirable ones. Your child will learn that petting your dog nicely, calmly, and gently will reward him or her with a big hug from you, an extended playtime, or maybe even a big dollop of your child’s favorite ice cream flavor.
The same can be said of your dog. If your pet remains calm and composed even if your toddler is already grabbing more than a handful of your dog’s fur, then you should give it a tasty treat. It’s like thanking your dog for being such a nice, calm, and gentle pet despite the rough play of your child.
The point here is to be always vigilant about the interaction that occurs between your dog and your toddler. If you see positive or good behavior in either or both, then you should reward such behaviors.
Always Supervise Their Playtime
Even with doggie socialization and training and toddler teaching activities, you should never feel safe about leaving your tot and your dog during playtime. Your focus should always be on these two little ones in your life.
Toddlers are very unpredictable and they do have this behavior that is largely uncoordinated. On the other hand, dogs always have the tendency to snap and hurt your kid. It’s never a good combination. So keeping an eye on both your kid and your dog is an absolute necessity. Even a fraction of a second can lead to an incident that you may regret for the rest of your life. Don’t be overconfident about teaching your child and training your dog. There simply is no telling what might transpire in the few seconds that you did not keep an eye on these two darlings of your life.
Consider Pet Gates
Pet gates or baby gates work both ways. It creates a physical barrier between your dog and your toddler. While these contraptions are basically designed to keep dogs out of certain rooms or areas inside your house so that your baby will be protected, the right dog gate can also be used on older children such as toddlers and preschoolers. Indoor baby gates can help provide security while still allowing your tot and your dog to see each other. They can even engage in parallel play – both are playing with their respective toys on their own.
The important thing to remember is to get a pet gate that is going to be quite challenging for your child to open. It should also be high enough and not have materials that your child can use to scale or climb over the gate.
Maintaining the peace between your little tot and your growing hound is crucial if you want to prevent your home from turning into a war zone. Heed these tips and you’re on your way to ensuring a healthier child-dog relationship.
- Helping Your Child Overcome a Fear of Dogs, Pets WebMD
- Kids and Dogs: How Kids Should and Should Not Interact with Dogs, Dr. Sophia Yin