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Establishing a Healthy Relationship Between a Dog and a Toddler

You are blessed with a baby; are going through a whole lot of new feelings and emotions, which are also accompanied with lots of adjustments in the lifestyle. But what most of the new parents, who also own a pet dog, don’t recognize is that besides them there is someone else too who needs to accept the new changes and feel the new sentiments. That someone is your adorable pet dog, who, initially, may not exhibit positive feelings and behavior towards the sudden change. Your dog may see the baby as an opponent who is keen on possessing its personal space and its share of love and affection.

The threatened dog can prove hazardous for the baby; also a toddler too can prove to be a real irritant for the dog, hence it’s important to help both the parties in laying a healthy foundation of a bond which would get stronger and stronger with the passing time.

Mentioned below are some of the suggestions which would come to your aid while managing the delicate relationship between your adorable pet dog and your sweet little toddler:

Try to understand your dog’s state of mind

Getting to know your dog’s mental state would give a better perspective from which you can decide the course of action to undertake for the formation of better relationship between the dog and the toddler. Before the baby came, your dog occupied a big part of your love, affection and time. But because of the addition of a new member, the spotlight has shifted, to some extent, from the dog. Now it’s the baby who grabs most of the attention, more so because of its special needs.

The dog somehow manages to get used to this division of affection, however, the problem actually comes to the surface when the baby grows in to a toddler. A young bundle of curiosity and innocence, from time to time the toddler may decide to explore the four-legged hairy creature. The child may pull the dog’s tail, ears and fur, play with its toys – on the whole test the patience of an already insecure, detached dog, which may result in some aggression in the form of growling, knocking down or biting.

On any instant of misbehavior, the first impulsive reaction of yours could be to shout at the dog, tie it somewhere or direct it out of the room. However, do remember that dogs are guided by their impulse and training; hence the best way to bring emotional security to them and to make them accept the new addition to the family is through lots of love and gradual training.

Behave like a child with the dog to familiarize it with the kid-like conduct 

Your baby can throw too many surprises on your pet dog which could be hard for it to tackle, more especially when the child has sprung up emotional insecurity in the dog. Therefore, it would be a very good idea to familiarize the dog with certain behavioral traits of the babies. Start screaming here and then, in high pitch, as toddlers do; rub the dog’s tummy and head, as a curious and happy child does; pull its hair or tail gently; take its toys and roam all around the house along with them; try lifting its paws, and so on.

Note the way it reacts to your childish activities. If the dog is turning aggressive, then try to calm it down by showering love and praises on it. Once you notice some positive changes in the dog, promote it by offering some kind of treat to the dog. By doing all this, gradually, you would raise the level of tolerance of your dog and it would be in a better position to tackle the toddler’s behavior.

Avoid invasion of personal space

Establishment of warm relations between your dog and your toddler should not be made on the cost of dog’s personal space, as that may push it towards aggression. When your baby starts to crawl, and subsequently begins to walk, he/she may continuously intrude upon the space of your dog, which may threaten the dog, as the baby is also someone the dog doesn’t really know, a stranger. To let the dog and the toddler know each other or get used to each other through a healthy distance, try out baby gates, which would let the interaction happen and also allow the dog its privacy.

You can also make sure that there are enough escape routes for the dog to run to in case it runs out of patience or feels irritated by the curiosity driven child. Avoiding the avoidable and expected problems would ensure safety and happiness of both of your loved ones.

Get the dog used to kids and their ways

Making the dog familiar with kids in general is also one of the steps in which you can make the dog acquainted with children – their noise, their movement, and their laughter. You can do so by taking the dog to a children’s park, or at the entrance of a kid’s store and the like.

Firstly, let the dog witness the little ones from a distance; gradually, after some time, let it come closer to the kids. Moreover, let the kids pat the dog gently and also let the dog have some treats from their hands, so that the dog can also associate delicious rewards with the kids company along with all the noise and running around.

Lessons in love and respect towards the canine

The toddler, unknowingly, may pull the dog’s fur hard, which is irritating and painful even for the human beings, then think about the four-legged creature. So it’s important to teach the child certain things that would go a long way in bettering the bond.

When the kid looks calm and in a more receptive state, and the dog too is in a tranquil mood, introduce your kid to a more gentle way of stroking the dog by directing his/her hand over the dog’s body (avoiding the  sensitive zones, like ears, eyes and the top of the head).

Teach the kids to share some of the food from their plates with the dog. Dogs would get fonder of the toddler through such acts. Your kid would also enjoy doing so. Just be careful enough to watch that not everything your kid eats is healthy for the dog, so act accordingly. Never shout at the dog before the child and treat it as a family member, giving equal respect and love. That would make the child recognize the dog as an individual and not a toy.

Living along with a pet makes childhood more interesting and also assists in the development of a child. There are many emotional, physical, social and cognitive elements which would get enhanced in a child through a healthy interaction with the pet. The dog, on the other hand, would also get a playful and loving friend in exchange.


With over 15 years of experience in dealing with pets, the PetsWorld Team is now a constant guide for thousands of pet owners in India. Their passion for improving the lives of pets can be seen in their featured blog posts dedicated to pet care.

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