Dogs & Toddlers: How to keep them both safe
Toddlers and dogs seem naturally disposed to annoying one another. Whether it’s excitable dogs running around and looking for the next best ‘play fight’, or toddlers looking to touch and prod anything mildly interesting, accidents can easily happen.
But toddlers and dogs can happily coexist!
Safety is absolutely the primary concern with all interactions between children and dogs. But that doesn’t mean that you need to keep them apart at all times. Yes, it may take some planning and preparation, but socializing your dog and toddler early will have huge benefits in the long run. For all parties!
So, let’s get into how you can make raising a toddler (while you’re also raising a pup) a little easier and a lot safer…
Teach your toddler how to act around dogs
This probably seems like common sense. But, note that we’re not discussing how your toddler should act around your dog. Instead, you should consider how your toddler should act around every dog they meet.
The good news is – if you start early, then it’ll go relatively smoothly.
The first thing to start with is touch. Toddlers are known for wanting to touch everything. It’s a natural part of growing up and being inquisitive. But, you can’t guarantee how your dog will react sometimes, let alone a strangers. So, make sure they know that they’re not allowed to approach and touch a dog without checking with you (or another authority figure in their life). And, of course, you will have to check with the dog’s owner if applicable.
Now that they know the rules around when to approach a dog, you’re going to have to teach them how to pet the dog. It is important that you show them where is acceptable and where is not.
You’ll need to teach your toddler to be gentle. So, this means no pulling tails or grabbing the dog. But, instead, demonstrate that you should approach the dog from the side and pet or stroke them gently. This will help your dog (or anyone else’s) feel safe and comfortable. There should be no surprises with this method.
And your toddler will take in your actions and reflect them – so be on your best behaviour too!
Be clear on boundaries
Now they know how to approach dogs in general, you should set out boundaries for your dogs and any other familiar dogs.
Make sure your toddler is clear on boundaries. This includes things like knowing your dogs safe spaces (the crate, his bed, etc.), leaving the dog alone at meal times, and anything else that is applicable to your dog.
This will help your little one understand when they can interact with your dog safely.
Give them time together
Your dog and your little one will need to spend time together. This helps them get to know one another. So, one way to ensure supervised time together is by allowing your toddler to take part in your dog’s care routine.
This provides some quality time with the whole family and allows your dog to view your toddler as another care-giver. This will be beneficial in the long run. Involvement in your dog’s care is also another way to build your toddler’s knowledge of boundaries.
One way of doing this is by asking your toddler to place the dog’s food bowls, put them in charge of treat holding, or let them take part in walks with you. These little things can really help.
Your toddler should also be involved in play time, too! This should always be supervised to avoid unnecessary accidents, but will provide a great source of socialization for the both of them. It should help your pup feel safe around your toddler and vice versa.
And safety is our number one priority!
But make sure they have alone time too
Sometimes your dog will want to be alone – and that’s okay!
We all have moments like that and you should allow your dog to have them too. And this is why we encourage the use of safe spaces (like the crate or bed), where your dog can retreat to if necessary.
Your pets should never be forced to interact with your children. So, make sure that they don’t have to and always have the option to flee.
Another way to give your dog some space is through baby gates. They work wonders for keeping your toddler out of spaces they shouldn’t be, and they’ll likely keep your dog out too. So it’s a win-win!
Remember to monitor your dog and be aware of signs that they need that time away. And monitor your child, too. They may also need a break from an overbearing dog. It’s about knowing the tells and being able to react to them.
Be prepared for outbursts!
You’re likely familiar with the mood changes that come with a toddler – so be prepared. When they’re throwing a tantrum, you’re going to need to be more attentive to your dog’s behaviour. And, of course, your child’s.
Toddlers can lash out and we don’t want to put your pets in the firing line when this is likely. That’s how accidents happen. So, remain aware and react appropriately. Keep your toddler somewhere safe and keep your pets at a safe distance too. This will allow you to focus on the issue at hand and your toddler can receive your full attention.
Likewise, when your dog is going through its hyperactive bursts or ‘zoomies’, make sure your child is safe. We don’t want any unhappy accidents occurring because of excitement.
Remember, they have their own personalities
You can’t force your children and pets to get along – so don’t!
They may like one another or they may simply end up tolerating each other. Obviously we’d prefer the former, but the most you can do is ensure they know how to interact with one another and go from there.
So, regardless of anyone’s feelings, just focus on maintaining a safe environment with some of the tips above, and you’ll have no trouble!