Introduce Your Toddler To Your Dog While Keeping Everyone Happy And Safe

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

June 9, 2014

Toddlers are balls of energy, constantly getting into things as they discover the world around them. Sound like any other family member? Perhaps your pup?

When Rose was a baby, the interactions between her and our first born, our family dog named Olive, were much less complicated. I even wrote a blog post about how to introduce a newborn to your dog because that’s how simple I thought it was. Make sure your dog doesn’t sit on your baby. The end.


Fast forward a year and man, life is different. We have a full blown toddler on our hands. And our particular toddler loves animals – all animals. She loves the stuffed variety as well as the living, breathing, feel-that-cold-wet-nose variety.

Case in point:


Yeah, I have no idea how that even happened. She does that all by herself.

I think having a dog and a toddler is way more challenging than having a dog and a baby, so I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Give your munchkin and mutt tasks to do together. 

Seriously, I know this sounds wack. It really works! Obviously you can’t ask them to solve a Rubik’s Cube (unless you just happen to have the smartest combo on the block, in which case invite me over because I’d love to see that). Ask them simple questions: “Do you guys see the bird?”


I think doing this has helped Rose understand that Olive is a member of our family and that they can play together. Sometimes I’ll even ask Rose if she can “Show Olive the bunny!” or “Tell Olive where the squirrel is.”

My next task will be teaching Rose to teach Olive how to bake mama some cupcakes. Not too much or too little icing – it has to be just right. And don’t forget the sprinkles.


2. Your pup needs to learn how to share, and that goes both ways.

Nothing is off limits at our house. Rose is allowed to explore Olive’s food bowl, her bed, and all of her toys. And in return, Rose has to learn that Olive is allowed to use her naked Cabbage Patch doll as a pillow. (Why is that damn doll always naked?)


This could totally be untrue, but I think having Rose’s scent always up in Olive’s space is helpful in reducing possessiveness. She smells that kid wherever she goes. I mean, her father and I do too, but that’s for a much different blog post about bodily functions that you would definitely NOT want to read. You guys, kids poop so much.

Olive understands (most of the time) not to chew on Rose’s toys, but loves wallowing in them. That could also be because the toys in our house are everywhere and she can’t avoid them.


3. Encourage your babes to play together.

This one definitely requires parental supervision. You gotta make sure your kid doesn’t poke your pooch’s eye and that your mutt doesn’t mow down your toddler with one wag of her tail.


When monitored, encouraging your kiddos to play together can be really fun! I mean, you obviously can’t have a tent without a dog. That’s like having peanut butter without jelly. Mac without cheese. You get my point.

Teaching your kiddo to gently kiss your pup is a total bonus.Even when the activity is as tame as reading a book, I like to have Olive close by. (What is it about grandmas that make the best storytellers?)


Olive is often uninterested in whatever activity we’re up to. If it doesn’t involve food she quickly loses interest.


Encouraging them to play together will, over time, foster a relationship built on trust, kindness, and gentleness. And maybe a little bit of food.

Speaking of food…

4. Dogs love food. Just let your hound be a hound.

I tried really hard to keep Olive away from Rose when she was eating, but it caused her stress and she didn’t understand where this new rule was coming from. Now, I just make sure that Rose isn’t dropping too much –people food isn’t really healthy for dogs – and I let Olive saddle up next to the magical food platform.


She’s harmless and it makes her happy, even if nothing much does fall from that delicious food-heaven.

That dog is always standing by and she does make a great vacuum. (Just make sure you know what human foods are dangerous for your dog.) Rose loves the company. She’ll often stop halfway through her handful of bananas and pat Olive on the head. Yay for gooey dog fur.


5. Spend quality snuggle time with your furry family member.

I know how exhausting kids can be, but don’t forget to get some one on one snuggles with your favorite furry friend.


I love letting Olive on the bed for a quick snuggle after Rose has gone to bed and we’re getting ready to turn in for the night. I usually have to do it when my husband is in the shower – he sports a furrowed brow when he sees Olive on the bed. But it’s always totally worth it and a wonderful end to the day. I think it reminds Olive that despite the added chaos, she’s still our number one pooch.

I hope these tips help. Everyone is different and I’ve certainly learned that no kids or dogs are the same. You just have to figure out what works for you and your family.

Have a newborn? Read my tips on how to introduce your baby to your pup or visit Family Paws!

Also be sure to check out Moriya’s hilarious DIY blog The Harpster Home and her wacky card company, Olive and Clyde.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

June 9, 2014

Nutritionist-crafted food for your dog's breed or mix.

Recipes designed for dogs' individuality



A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.