5 Ways to Prepare your Toddler for a Dog

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A while back, when I first started my blog, I wrote an article, which has become my most visited article on LuvAshland.com to date entitled: “5 Ways to Prepare your Dog for Baby.” Since then, my Son has grown from a baby to a toddler which has taught me that not only it is important to prepare your dog for a baby, but it is also important to teach and prepare your children for a dog. If you don’t know already, I am a HUGE Real Housewives fan and in the most recent season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills you learn about a situation where one of the housewives had to go through not one but two dogs due to “aggressive behavior” towards their toddlers. As a Mother of a toddler myself, I was a little distraught trying to empathize with this Mom and pray that I would never be placed in that situation.  At that moment, while watching the show, I looked down at our 2-year-old dog, Bowie and reflected on everything we as a family had worked on for the last couple years as well as the stress I had, when preparing Bowie for the baby. You see, when our Son was first born I was so preoccupied and stressed out about preparing our dog for the baby, that I did not realized the importance of preparing our baby for our dog.  I think we subconsciously prepped my Son when he became a Toddler to treat our dog, Bowie with kindness because we wanted to teach him to not only love Bowie but to also teach him empathy and love for animals.  I am happy to report that Bowie and my Son, Donovan our now Best Friends! From Donovan wanting to feed Bowie to his little Bowie hugs, to the moment we get home Donovan walking straight to Bowie’s cage to let him out; they love each other. Since I gave you the tips of preparing your Dog for baby, I wanted to now give you some tips for preparing your Toddler for a dog.

5 Ways to Prepare your Toddler for a Dog

  1. Introduction between Toddler and Dog
    • The introduction between your child and dog is extremely important. It is critical for an adult (specifically the parents) to be present when introducing a pet to your home. You should NEVER leave a small child alone with a dog. Always remember, no matter how close the pet is to the family, they are still animals and do have animal instincts.
  2. Teach your Child how to treat the Dog
    • It is important to teach your child to treat your new dog as they would like to be treated.  Remember, a Dog is not a Child’s toy or a stuffed animal that a Child can do with as they please. We made sure that whenever I held or cuddled with our dog, I would say “Aww… how sweet” and lay my head down on our Dog. I would also take my Son’s hand and softly pet the dog and say “how sweet.” At first, I didn’t realize the impact that this had on my Son, until one day when I said out loud “how sweet!” while he was near Bowie that he immediately went up and hugged him.
  3. Feeding the Dog
    • Even though our Son is only 14 months old, we decided to incorporate him in the “chore” of feeding the dog. We started off with holding him when we fed the dog every day and then it slowly escalated to our Son wanting to feed our Dog. NOTE: when your dog is eating, make sure to keep your children away from the dog. Our dog, Bowie, is very patient with our Son, but I cannot speak for all dogs and it is in the animal instinct to protect their food. The responsibility of a “chore” for your child can add to the ownership that your child takes on with the pet, this in turn hopefully makes them proud of having the dog as part of the family. Another great chore to do with your child is bathing the dog, I would recommend having another adult there with you when you do this chore, as it becomes a bit difficult to juggle both a Toddler and a wet dog when doing this one.
  4. Correct your Child
    • If you see that your child is being rough with the dog, make sure to take the proper precautions of scolding them properly. The same punishment that you would give if they misbehaved. It is important for them to know that the dog is a part of the family and deserves respect.
  5. Playtime
    • We made a point to show our Son, Donovan, early on, how to play fetch with our dog, Bowie. We would have our Son hold the ball and then flick the ball with our hand, sending the ball across the room. This made Donovan roar with laughter. Today, our Son picks up the ball himself and plays fetch with our dog. I truly believe this action alone was what brought Donovan and Bowie together to be Best Friends.

Other tips could be naming the dog; if your child is old enough to name the dog, this also allows them to again take ownership and feel as if the dog is their own.

Note that all dogs are different and sometimes, in situations where a dog is a little too aggressive for comfort, you do have to make the decision to find that dog a new lovely and safe home and that is okay.  Remember that your child of course comes first. I do though encourage you to truly try to prepare your child for a dog, just as if you would prepare a dog for a child and if for any reason you feel as if all this work is not worth the time, then I would recommend avoiding the adoption of ANY pets until you are ready. Animals are not accessories that can be used and abused; they are living things that need love, time and work.

I recently found this amazing book called “Love Me Gently” by Lisa Wienebrink which is a “Kid’s Guide for Man’s Best Friend.” It is a book that teaches children how to treat their Dogs and the importance of being kind and patient with your pets. I encourage you all to read it to your kids. You can check it out here.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, this post was inspired by watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, specifically regarding one of their stars Lisa Vanderpump who is one of the owners of Vanderpump Dogs. The Vanderpump Dog Foundation is a dog rescue organization, working on both a domestic and international front to help create a better world for dogs globally. If you are a dog lover, as myself, then you should take the time to learn about her organization and learn about all the causes she supports to stop the inhumane treatment of dogs worldwide.

“The more I learn about people, the more I like my Dog.” – Mark Twain

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