We’ve all seen the photos of toddlers snuggling with their canine BFFs and been reduced to hooman mush by the overpowering cuteness. Every kid deserves a doggy sidekick. They take the rap for missing homework and make broccoli disappear under the dinner table. Not to mention all those "Aww"-inspiring photo ops! Want your
children to develop a lifelong bond with the family dog? Then read on!
Baby on Board? Start Planning Now!
Nine months should be plenty of time to prepare your pooch for the pending arrival. If your dog has not been through basic behavior training, now is the time. You need him to understand and obey basic commands like No, Stop and Off. Ask another mom to bring her baby by the house for a supervised test run. Assess your pup’s level of anxiety around the child. Before bringing your infant home from the hospital, have your pooch sniff a blanket with the baby’s scent. Allow your dog to get used to the new scent, but make sure to “own” the blanket. This will let your dog know there is a new arrival coming and that you are in charge of it.
Before introducing your dog to any child, make sure he is well exercised.
A good long walk or a run through the dog park will help expel some of that pent up nervous energy. Your dog should be calm and submissive before any encounter with a child. This rule applies regardless of who the new arrival is - dog or child.
Let the dog go to the child.
Children love puppy dogs, and may rush right over to your pooch in excitement. Speak to kids before they encounter your dog. Explain that the doggy may be nervous at first and they must be very quiet and very still so they won’t scare him. When the dog feels safe, he will make his way over to be introduced. This can be a long process, so don’t force the issue. Make sure to supervise, but try not to be too nervous or controlling. Your dog will pick up on your tense energy.
Teach children how to properly touch a dog.
Babies and toddlers are just learning about the world and their instinct is to grab everything that catches their interest. Even older children mistakenly reach to pat a dog’s head or give a big, goofy hug. Dogs may see any of these gestures as a potential threat and snap at the child. Train kids that dogs prefer to be touched on the side of their face or under their chin. Also stress that they must never sneak up on the dog or touch him when he’s sleeping.
Know your dog’s stress signals and body language.
Tucked tails, flattened ears and lowered eyes are signs that your dog may be feeling overwhelmed. Get to know your dog’s personal body language so that you are aware when he’s had enough baby time for one day. Dogs rarely ever bite without warning, so it is imperative that you understand their subtle clues. Teach children to respect personal space and never to back a dog into a corner.
Never allow kids to interfere with a dog who is eating, chewing a bone or holding a toy.
Curious to a fault, kids have a tendency to reach for items that others are holding. Many preventable bites occur when children try to take a dog’s favorite toy or sample a bite of his kibble. Babies and toddlers will need constant supervision to prevent these actions. It is best to have scheduled feedings and play times for your dog during your child's nap time or bath time. Maintaining a routine and providing one-on-one attention can help alleviate the stress of a new baby. Older children can be taught to respect the dog’s belongings and personal space. Testing your dog for food or possession aggression before allowing children around him is recommended.
Include children in the daily care of your dog.
Kids love feeling like they are helping to care for the family dog. Even little ones can come along on daily walks or help refill the water bowl. Older kids can take on even more responsibility like feedings, walks and baths. The more your child participates in your dog’s care, the more they will grow to trust and love one another.
Follow these tips carefully and adorable nap time photos are sure to follow!