How to Establish a Healthy Relationship between the Two
(Image Courtesy: Dog Heirs)
Guest Contributor: Brian Zeng
Growling, snapping and biting…No your dog has not just turned into a different animal all together with your toddler. It is still the same adorable pup you brought in but it is just experiencing a whole new range of feelings and emotions. While you might be completely bewildered seeing this transition from affectionate to aggressive in your dog, it is only the dog’s natural, untrained interaction with your toddler.
Both the baby and the dog will be essential parts of your family and you are in charge of both of them. Managing a toddler and a dog and establishing a healthy relationship between the two is no mean feat, but if you do manage to make it happen there is hardly anything more rewarding than a family with a dog and a toddler. Endless moments of fun, heart melting exchanges between the two and one of the greatest friendships you will ever see will develop right under your roof. So how do you do it?
Here are a few but pretty effective ways of getting the juggle between the dog and the child right.
Empathizing with Your Dog
Having an insight into your dog’s mind and heart will be your first step in establishing a healthy relationship between the toddler and the dog. Having a new member in the family makes a huge difference to the dog and especially more so if this new member manages to grab away all the attention from him.
And just when it got used to that, this attention-grabbing baby turns into a toddler and even invades its personal space pulling its tail, playing with its toys and even grabbing tufts of hair sometimes. This is exactly how your dog will initially feel around your toddler. Insecurity, detachment and a great deal of open dislike will surface from your dog while the toddler being the innocent, unaware thing it is, will continue in all its actions only aggravating the dog’s dislike for it.
This is where you need to step in. Dogs are extremely affectionate creatures, but they are also ones governed by impulses and training. So instead of shouting at it or cornering it when it misbehaves, understand what it is going through and show it that you still deeply love it and then gradually train it to accept the new member.
Be a Kid Before the Kid Arrives
We all know what toddlers are like. So when you realize a new kid is going to be coming in the house, prepare your pooch for it by acting like a kid with it yourself. Scream in high pitched voices. Take its toys and go round and round the house, gently pull its hair or tail sometimes and rub its head and belly like kids do, try to lift its paws. See how it reacts. If you see it turning aggressive, soothe it, calm it down and shower affectionate praises on it, you can also give it some treats when it stops reacting aggressively to such behavior.
This way you are slowly but effectively building up its endurance to toddler activities and when the actual interaction occurs, your pooch will be a lot better equipped to deal with the toddler than if it had to face such behavior from an outside source for the first time.
Having Escape Routes and Baby Gates
(Image Courtesy: Retract-A-Gate Pinterest)
When your new-born is a baby, your dog still has its space clearly marked out, and can escape into its own corners, but when the baby starts to crawl and do the wobbly walk God help the poor dog. A dog hates it when its personal space is invaded by an unknown person and is very likely to snap and bite to guard its space and privacy.
So even if as a parent of both, you want them to share a warm and friendly relationship right from the beginning, do plan some baby gates and escape routes for your pooch. Baby gates are a great way to let your toddler and pooch get used to one another from a comfortable distance, gradually you can allow them to come closer but strictly under your supervision.
Similarly always keep some spaces in the houses open where the dog can escape. This is important as, if the child unintentionally chases the dog and gets it cornered, the dog can escape and move away when it feels uncomfortable and unpleasant but if there is no space to escape, it might end up knocking down or biting the toddler in a rush or fear aggression.
Hence to establish a healthy relationship let the proximity between the two build gradually.
Taking Your Dog to Child Friendly Areas
A cornerstone in achieving a healthy relationship between the dog and the child would be to acclimatize the dog with kids prior to its encounter with the toddler within the house. You can do this by taking the dog to kids’ play parks, entrance of children stores etc. where they can see kids laughing, playing and screaming. Let your dog maintain a safe distance from the kids initially but gradually let it interact with the kids. Also let the kids come and gently pet your pooch, give them some treats to hand over to your pet. This way not only will your dog be acquainted with all the revelry, noisiness and running around of the kids but also start associating them with pleasant treats and rewards.
Your dog will have a much friendlier approach to toddlers then. It can even play with them and when there is a toddler in the house, he can easily befriend the tiny one, be protective about it and develop a deep friendship with the toddler. After all both love to be playful.
Teaching Your Toddler Respect and Love towards the Dog
(Image Courtesy: Dogs Love Babies)
If puppy training is difficult, training a toddler around an animal isn’t easy either. But it is a must. Little kids have sticky fingers and unintentionally end up grasping things. Grasping the fur or hair is definitely going to be an irritant for the dog. So when you are around the kid and the dog and both of them are relatively calm, take your kids’ hands and show him how to gently stroke on the back and sides of the dog. Avoid the eyes, ears and top of the head as these are sensitive areas.
Teach your kids to put some food over to the dog when they are eating. Dogs absolutely love this and will become a lot fonder of the kid. Besides, the kid loves doing this. However, do see what is going from the kids’ plates to the dogs as everything the kid eats is not suitable for the pup.
Like you teach your dog not to bark, not to jump on strangers and toddlers, teach your kid too, to not go pulling their tails and snatching their toys and sitting on them.
Show your toddler that the dog is as much a part of the family as anybody else and never shout at the dog before your kid. Have some chew toys for your kid that the dog can also play with. Show your kid how to play with the dog and often have the two of them around while doing various chores indoors or outdoors. This way you will devoting equal time to both of them and letting them bond as well.
A child and a dog often have the most endearing friendships if the little obstacles can be removed. So make sure they become buddies that connect, communicate and comfort each other. A dog can have a huge positive impact on a child and teach it many lessons of life early like responsibility, patience and care. Watch this beautiful relationship bloom before your eyes.
Brian Zeng is a community manager and web presence strategist for Dog Love It, a very popular doggy supply store. He loves shopping for his lovable collie, whose name is Julie :-)