Monday, April 16, 2012

Puppies and Toddlers: Making It Work Without the Headache

I have to confess it was always a lifelong dream of mine to raise my baby with a dog. I had every plan to adopt a puppy as soon as my baby learned to walk and let them grow together. But life to hold of that dream and the reality of knowing how to make that work stopped me with the birth of every child, that was until my son was born.

Being my only natural born son I couldn’t dismiss the constant nagging in the back of my brain that kept saying, “A boy and his dog.” I know it sounds funny but the truth is many moms are just like me and desire to have a puppy and a toddler.

I’m here to tell you it can be done without the headaches and exhaustion many complain about. All it takes is a little bit of planning and some intentional choices.

Preparing for Puppy During the Toddler Years

Before you bring your puppy home it’s critical to set up a designated puppy area that will not only keep your puppy in but also keep your toddler out. I found the durable plastic play fences are the perfect solution. You can set these play yards up anywhere that is convenient, your puppy cannot escape and your toddler can’t collapse it trying to get in.

I recommend purchasing the play yard and setting it up several weeks before you get your puppy. Toddlers are VERY curious about new toys in their space and this puppy area will be no different. If you have it set up for a few weeks it will lose it’s newness and your toddler will move on to other toys. During this time you can teach your little one that it’s not a toy and they have to leave that space alone.

I also recommend when possible setting up your puppy area in a room separated by a door for those times you don’t want to have to worry about whether or not your toddler is sticking his fingers in the fence to be chewed on!

Preparing Puppy for Safe Toddler Play

The next step in headache free puppy/toddler years is to intentionally plan all your puppy interactions in a way that will be laying a foundation for safe toddler play. You don’t want your puppy to jump on, bite or harass your baby.

The best way to do this is to never allow your puppy to jump, ever. When you approach the fence tell him to sit and don’t give him any attention until all four paws are on the floor. Then placing your hand on his chest before petting him will help you prevent unwanted jumping.

Additionally it’s best to only let your toddler and puppy spend time together when the puppy is sleeping. This will prevent accidentally teaching unwanted behaviors of jumping and biting as your puppy tries to “play” with your baby.

As soon as your puppy has settled in start working on home dog training with a few basic commands and expectations. This will help prepare your puppy for more disciplined obedience as he grows.

And finally, be patient. There is no rush to let your toddler and puppy be free running buddies. A few controlled interactions each day during sleepy time will start that wanted bond without the hassles of chaotic play.

Raising your toddler with a puppy can be done with no headache and no hassles. Just take the time to plan, prepare and then follow through and you will soon be watching your boy (or girl) and his dog running in the field.

About the Author:

Mikki Hogan lives in NC with her husband, kids and canine companions. After struggling with her disobedient dog, online training was the answer. Whether working with dogs or homeschooling kids Mikki shares her experiences to help parents just like her.

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