Are you embarking on the journey of attempting to harmoniously raise dogs and toddlers in the same home? That can be quite an adventure! Dogs and children require loads of attention, and as parents we work diligently to be masters of multi-tasking. We hope to see our dogs and children grow to have a trusting relationship with each other, but often aren’t aware of how to effectively foster that type of bond. Over the next three months, I will be sharing insightful tidbits from the Family Paws™ Parent Education Dogs & Toddlers™ program to help prioritize safety, sanity, and friendships that flourish over time between dogs and children.
#1. Monkey see. Monkey do.
Sometime in a conversation about parenting young children, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Monkey see. Monkey do.” I would also venture to say that you’ve seen it in action in your home. Some things we are elated to see our children imitate, but not so much other things. I was overjoyed this morning to hear my newly 4 year old belting out a church tune I’ve been singing, but wasn’t as thrilled to see her putting water in my fancy, brand new liquid soap dispenser. Of course, she didn’t know my reasons for occasionally doing that, but she thought she was being helpful doing what she had seen mommy do before.
So, how in the world does that relate to children and dogs? Ask yourself, “What do my kids see me doing with my dog? Is it okay for them to do, too? What about if they do it to their friend’s dog?” Everything from how you play with, train, and show affection to your pup is absorbed by your youngster. Do your best to model appropriate interaction. Things like rough play and even hugging may be something you enjoy with your family pet, but those are things that if done by a child can put them in a dangerous situation. Many dogs don’t care to be hugged, but will tolerate it from trusted adult companions. A hug from an unpredictable toddler is a whole different experience for a dog and often causes stress to our canine companions. Rough play may be fun with a grown up, but an overzealous dog may not be able to regulate their exuberance for that type of play with a child. Training should also be modeled with force free methods and positive reinforcement that can be safely implemented with adult guidance. When little eyes are watching, let them see what is safe to imitate.
Be sure to check back next month for insightful tip #2 on Fostering Friendships Between Dogs and Toddlers.