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Kid’s Best Friend: How to Have a Pet Friendly Toddler

Kid’s Best Friend: How to Have a Pet Friendly Toddler

By Rebeckah Puleo

 

The role of a parent is full of adventure.  You enjoy taking your baby out for walks to enjoy the sun and fresh air.  A little snuggle before heading off for bed.  You even make sure to spoil them every so often with a treat.

But at some point, your fur baby will need to share your affection with your actual baby.  Sadly, this can cause jealousy on both sides.  A baby and dog both have their unique set of demands.

And you might be wondering between barks and cries — is there room for everyone to live together peacefully?

While studies show that dogs have an overall positive impact on families₁, teaching a toddler to coexist with one can be a challenge.

It’s an entirely new set of boundaries that might even feel unnecessary to a little one.  They’re just starting to figure out the world around them and there’s much to learn about animals in general.  Besides that dogs are cute and their tails are fun to catch, of course.

But there is hope that things can work out, even if the beginning is a bumpy ride.  Maybe Fido was there first and is so over hearing baby’s cries.  Or maybe the new member of the family is a puppy that is overly excited to see a tiny human at eye level.

Keep reading for a few tips to make your family mesh with fewer barks along the way.

Introduce Your Little One to Pet Chores

The more distance there is with your curious toddler and possibly fearful pet (or the other way around), the less they’re likely to get along.

Maybe you’re being seen taking the dog for walks or freshening up the water dish.  These observations might have your child see the pet as your job.

But actually inviting everyone to participate is a game changing experience.  Try assigning age appropriate chores that can be done under supervision.

Seeing firsthand how their job impacts the family dog gives new depth to their relationship.

You’ll be building trust on both ends while also getting a few things done (bonus!).

Plan Activities For All

Make a point to actively plan outings for everyone.  A day at the park, a trip to Grandma’s (if she allows) and definitely a trip to buy dog food.

It can be as simple as just letting your dog roam around during your afternoon of passing the soccer ball back and forth.

Dressing up for your Christmas card photoshoot?  Don’t forget a snazzy bowtie or bandana for the furry family member. 

Everything that your child sees makes an impression.  So after a while you might notice them looking for ways to keep Fido in the loop.

Create Boundaries

You love your dog, it's true.  But there are still some rules about how they are to exist in the home.  


In every home there seems to always be a special room with special couches that no one is allowed to sit on.  No judgement!  But be clear with everyone in the house where and where not the dog can be.

Dogs in the bedrooms might be a no-no since those toddler shoes will be looking extra tasty (just when you thought baby teething was your biggest problem).  Or maybe the playroom is forever off limits since so many kid toys can end up a puppy chew toy. 

Consider setting up a gated area for the dog to lounge and sleep in off hours.  Make it clear that this is exclusive to the pup and that means it’s time to take a break from playing.

Making sure all are respecting boundaries, even for the family dog, is a valuable life lesson.

Prevent Toddler/Puppy Clashes

Even with the best intentions, toddlers are still learning and trying.  And as you know, part of parenting is navigating the tougher moments.

An unsupervised baby or toddler may play too rough with the family dog, setting off a chain reaction of self protection measures.

Try to remain calm and understand that neither are at fault.  And unless the dog carries on with any aggressive behaviors that are unprovoked, this can be fixed.

You’ll have to actively monitor your toddler and teach them to be gentle with the puppy.  Narrate what this looks like and demonstrate it as well.


Try consistently reinforcing that the puppy loves being pet nicely.  Approaching it from this angle, rather than saying “no” repeatedly will stick for your curious babe.

Invest in Family Friendly Dog Training

Puppy training is an excellent resource and way to learn how to best support positive interactions in the family. 

And you can really get more for your money by including your toddler.

No, not in the puppy training lessons!  But in helping the new pup’s habits be reinforced at home.

Looping in your child and teaching them to uphold the training at home is twice as valuable.  You’d be equipping them to practice a new responsibility but also showing them cause and effect. 

This parallel to rules for the dog, boundaries and commands help them see that the house runs with order, not chaos.  That as a family, the goal is everyone plays a part. 

And again, the inclusion sets the stage for a bond between pup and child.  One that’s guaranteed to last a lifetime. 



Sources:
1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01297.x

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