Young toddler with a dog?
So, you have a young toddler with a dog in your household? Or maybe you have two or three young children and a new puppy or a new dog that you have adopted from a shelter or foster carer setup and now need to settle everyone in so that there is harmony in the household. Here are some great tips on what you can do to help ease the pain of bringing these two ever changing things together!
My partner has a young child (18 months of age) and he regularly meets my two dogs, Pepper and Lochie, whom are fairly big and are ultra friendly however do have their boundaries and we must respect these and also teach the young child what to do around dogs. Pepper is a German Shephard and Lochie is a Border Collie.
If you follow some of these basics, it will set you up to go a long way in creating a harmonious and respectful relationship for both dog and child.
Have your dog(s) managed to begin with, what I mean by this is simple, either have your dogs on the other side of a baby gate, in a puppy pen (these are easily found at a pet store or online) or on 'chill out' time whereby they are on a lead somewhere in the house that is easy and manageable. Any of these techniques will keep your dog at bay whilst your toddler is running around getting into everything (which their inquisitive minds allow them to do this!). If your youngster wants to go and pat the dog, under supervision go with your child over to the dog and say 'gentle', this is an easy word for them to learn and teaches the child to pat the dog nicely - you also need to pat the dog nicely to show the child what to do whilst you are also saying the word to the child. When the child does do the right thing, give them lots of fun praise and tell them how wonderful they are for patting the dog nicely.
Whilst 'gentle' is being achieved, also praise the dog for staying relaxed, or even get the dog into a 'sit' or 'drop' so that the dog is more settled and ready to be patted by yourself and the child. Praise the dog LOTS when they are being well behaved and accepting of the patting and the dog will respond and want to do it more to please you and also know that is pleasing you and interacting with the child which is what you want, you want the dog to enjoy the interaction with the child and see the child as a positive thing, not something to be afraid of.
My partners child sometimes wants to give 'squeezes' to my dogs, or cuddles as they are better known....this is OK as long as you are watching and making sure dog is not uncomfortable and happy to have some extra attention, but always keep your childs face away from the dogs face at ALL times, its incredibly important that this is done and practised as a habit. One of my past clients was a plastic surgeon and he mentioned to me that they see MANY cases of kids being bitten on the face and surgery needed, all because the parents let the children put their faces near the dogs and didn't realise how serious and how easily something can go wrong.
Whatever you do around your dog, your child will pick up on and try and mimic, so make sure your interactions are controlled, managed, positive and gentle to your dog, This will help your child realise how he/she needs to behave around the dog and once a habit is formed in both child and dog you will have a much easier and better managed environment.
Keep an eye out for my next blog on games with kids and dogs. In the meantime, having a young toddler with a dog can be daunting but there is light at the end of the tunnel for you as a parent and dog owner.