Puppies and Toddlers – do they go together?

Contrary to popular belief, puppies and toddlers or very young children do not necessarily go together.  Unless specifically socialized to toddlers and very young children, the pup cannot be expected to know how to behave around small children.  And, small children cannot be expected to know how to behave around puppies and dogs.  Puppies have very sharp teeth, and might bite if they feel threatened or are hurt or if they get over-excited.  Small children tend to think of puppies as fluffy toys and don’t understand that these are living things. They think they’re just really cool toys.  They tend to hug too tightly, pull ears and tails and carry or hold puppy inappropriately.
There are things you can do if you have pups and toddlers together to make things go smoothly and without incident.
1.       Never leave young children and puppies alone together – even for a moment.  If you cannot supervise, either put your pup into a crate or into another room.
2.      Do not allow your toddler to hug, kiss, follow or chase the pup, pull ears, fur or tail.  Show your toddler, by example, how to pet your puppy.  If your toddler does get rough, tell him or her firmly “NO NO. That hurts puppy. He’s a BABY DOG.”
3.      Make your pup’s crate or sleeping area off-limits to your toddler. 
4.      Do not allow your toddler to take away a bone or toy.  But make sure you play the Take/Leave game with your pup to show him or her that it’s ok to have things taken away.
5.      Do not allow your toddler to carry your pup.  The only way pup can be held is if your toddler is sitting down on the floor.  Even then, supervise closely to be sure that pup isn’t being squeezed too tightly.
Use food rewards to desensitize the pup to the things a toddler may do. Recognize warning signs from the pup, such as moving away, half moon eye, licking chops when not eating, yawning when not tired, sudden scratching.  If the pup becomes fearful of small children because he has been traumatized this fearfulness may become aggression towards small children later in the dog’s life.  Try to make your pup’s interactions with toddlers as pleasant an experience as you can in the critical period of socialization.

If you are thinking of getting a puppy as a “playmate” for your toddler, please give it a lot of thought. Do not be seduced by sentimental pictures such as these in this article. Toddlers require so much time, and puppies can be almost as demanding as children. And the early stages of a puppy are so important – the time and effort you put into the first two years in training and shaping their behaviour pays off years down the road. It would be a real challenge to train and socialize a puppy at the same time as having a toddler.”

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