5 Solutions To Help Your Toddler And Dog Bond

When parents describe their family pet as being fantastic with their toddlers and then in the next sentence, tell me how your child can pull your dog’s ears, jump on them, wrestle, and pinch them without the dog biting, it’s inexcusable. That is not how we should gauge the success of your dog’s temperament and their relationship with your kids. Your dog doesn’t “have a great bond” with your toddler because they haven’t growled or nipped them yet. I consider that torture to your family pet who has been nothing but patient in tolerating your child. The only hope dogs in this scenario have is that eventually, the kids will grow up and learn how to respect them. It’s the dogs that have multiple toddlers back to back in the household with minimal parent interjections that have it the hardest.

Here are the solutions. Having toddlers and dogs is hard work and constant management. There are ways coexisting with dogs and toddlers can be done correctly. We love our dogs, and of course, we would never want to torture them just because we have toddlers.  

1. Supervising vs. Separation

Parents need to recognize and understand dog body language, and when they have reached their threshold around the kids. Here is the definition of what threshold means:   the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. At that point, separation is the best approach. Use a baby gate, a separate room that your toddler doesn’t have access to or a crate to give your dog time to relax. Supervising a dog after they have reached their limits is just pushing your dog into a state of either shut down or correcting your child because you won’t intervene. That is not fair for your dog, and even if they are successful in developing coping skills, your toddler is torturing them. A good analogy is when we put our kids to bed after a long, exhausting day, and they get up repeatedly. As a parent, we should all be able to relate to this!      

2. Creating Healthy Boundaries

Toddlers need boundaries that are clearly defined and consistent. It is not enough to say over and over again, to be gentle with the dog. If they are not mature enough to understand what that means, then the family pet should not be subjected to it. Instead, make times where you and your toddler interact together with the dog. Sit down on the floor together; you demonstrate what “nice hands” means. Show the dog you are there advocating for them. Your dog will appreciate the attention and seek your toddler rather than learn to avoid them.   

3. Teach Your Dog Their Job Around Kids

Training your dog and being proactive about the scenarios between kids and dogs will ensure that everybody has their job in the house. The Dogs to Diapers film defines and teaches a new skill set for situations that will take place around a new baby/toddler. The place command is perfect for mealtimes and quiet times. The heel command, which means no pulling on the leash, is excellent when going on a stroller walk. Teach dogs (and kids) the appropriate manners around one another; don’t just expect them to do it naturally. Don’t find yourself correcting the dog constantly but then never replacing the behavior with a new skill.    

4. Teach Your Child Responsibilities Around The Dog

It’s not just the dog that should not growl, nip, knock over, rough house with your kids. Discuss age-appropriate expectations around your kids with the family. Do not expect a toddler under three to make the correct decisions on how to interact with the family pet. Parents have to demonstrate this together with the dog. Kids need constant reminders and adult guidance. There need to be clear boundaries and consequences for mistreating the dog. What this means to your family is your business, but if the child’s behavior isn’t stopping, its dog training 101, then your punishment isn’t valid.       

5.  Healthy Activities Between Your Toddler And Dog

-Your toddler can help prepare the dog’s food for them.  

-Your toddler can have fun playing retrieve with your dog. 

-Your toddler can help with grooming your dog.

-The dog and toddler can both have to brush their teeth and get their nails trimmed together.  

-Your toddler can have book time while your dog has place time.  

-Your toddler can help stuff an interactive toy and give it to the dog during nap time.

By doing all this, you show your child responsibility and ownership with the family pet instead of making your dog seem like a giant play pal. An environment like this creates a healthy, loving bond between dog and toddler. The dog and your child should not be “littermates” duking it out daily until the dog pushed over the threshold. We owe our dog a much better life than that.

You should start preparing your dog for a life with kids while you are pregnant. Being proactive sets our family pet up for the most success.    

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