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Great news, you’ve just found out you’re expecting! How amazing is that? Or perhaps you’re adopting a child – equally amazing and magical. Or, maybe your sister just lost her job and apartment and needs a place to stay and she and her four kids are moving in with you (you love them to death, but they are a handful). It’s time to get rid of the dog, right?
WRONG! You made a commitment to Fido and he is part of the family. You can’t just schlep your four-legged baby off to who knows where.
Now, we know our readers would never do that, but these scenarios were included for illustrative purposes. The following ideas are to prepare your pooch for children coming into your life. These are all easy things that can be done at home without expensive training tools or professional services.
1. Create a Safe Zone
Create safe areas for your dog and teach him to go to them. In the event Fido feels cornered or threatened, he will know he can easily high-tail-it around the couch to his spot. These areas should be easy for him to get in and out of and even be elevated. One idea is to designate a comfortable chair for your doggie to use as a safe spot. Any kids that come to your house should be told that when your pup is on his chair, its timeout. If kids are too young to understand, be sure you keep a close eye on them so they respect your pup’s sacred spot. You can always negotiate a new recliner for the husband if he’ll relinquish the beat up old one to your pup.
Another good option for a safe spot can be your pup’s crate. To many dogs, a crate is already a safe spot. Leave your dog’s crate out in the open and fill it with a bed, soft blankets, toys, and anything else that they enjoy. When strangers and children are in your house, this is a heat spot for your pup to retreat.
2. Be Social Butterflies
Take Fido to the dog park, have play dates, and invite friends over. Use every chance possible to make sure your pooch is socialized. You can even take him shopping with you. Not only can you take him to PetSmart, but Lowe’s, Pottery Barn, Macy’s, but many other stores are also dog-friendly! While out and about, you are bound to run into people of all shapes and sizes, especially children. This will give your pup chance to experience all the wonder that is a child and get used to them. Bring your dog’s favorite treats with you to let him know being around kids can be a positive experience.
3. Mind Your Manners
It’s always a good idea to teach basic commands. “Sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “make me some coffee” are good ones to start off with. (Good luck with that last one though – I’ve been trying for years.) Knowing and responding to basic commands will help you handle your pup while around children. When Fido hears “down,” as he’s licking the peanut butter out of your child’s ear, he will know to stop what he is doing and listen. You should definitely reward him at that point, though, for giving up such a yummy snack.
4. Embrace the Pokey Little Puppy
Inevitably, your pooch is going to be poked, prodded, and at some point, treated like a plaything by kids. You can help prepare him for this pseudo-torture by desensitizing him in a playful manner. By making a game of similar actions to those you can expect from kids, being around them will be much more positive. You can poke him on the side, much like tapping someone on their opposite shoulder, and asking, “Ooo! What was that?” Immediately follow this up with a treat! Touching your dog on his ears, feet and tail is important as well. These spots can be sensitive for some dogs, so making this action as non-stressful as possible will help them out around nosy children.
Learning and experiencing something new takes time and patience with animals. It is important to try and make every interaction with children as positive as possible. Any time your dog behaves appropriately, reward him. Tell him he’s a good boy. Give your pup an extra pat on the head and a treat. Your reward system can involve baby talk, an entire extra snuggle session with smooches, belly rubs, and a treat. Though this may elicit odd looks from other shoppers at Lowe’s.
Train the kids. Kids of all ages should be taught to understand how to properly interact with animals. They should understand that not all dogs are going to be incredibly friendly. Teaching children how to appropriately approach new dogs and how to treat animals gently can save your kids and pets from emotional and/or physical harm. Whenever possible, supervise interactions between kids and pets.
For more information on teaching your pet to behave around children, visit to ASPCA’s page of tips.
Image source: Martin Pilote/Flickr