Dogs and Toddlers Realistic Guide to Keeping Them Safe

Let’s face it: toddlers can sometimes act like real foolishs. This is not to say that toddlers are foolishs. You are so new here with only one to three years under your belt.

I am not one to ignore the reality of raising a toddler. It’s hard. It’s really, really difficult. And you change dramatically from day to day, acquiring new skills and learning new things that once you feel like you’ve mastered something, your two-year-old is suddenly big and strong enough to open your kitchen drawer and is wandering around the house with a hammer in one hand and a tub of glue in the other

Child runnin with a dog in park. Kid with a puppy dog outdoor playing at backyard lawn.

Toddlers are noisy. They’re a mess. They are hypermobile, but not yet coordinated. They are unpredictable. They experience extreme emotions that often involve extreme outbursts – joy, of course, but also pain and Frustration, anger and sadness.

I could go on, but you get the point. Toddlers are tough.

(They are also beautiful in a million ways. Watch them discover and innovate language and their imagination… priceless.)

THESE THINGS THAT MAKE TODDLERS WHO THEY ARE ALSO MAKE THEM INHERENTLY UNRELIABLE WHEN IT COMES TO DOGS.

When it comes to children and dogs, the focus should always be on safety. That’s it. Safety for children, safety for dogs. Dog bites are almost always preventable (read more about dog bite prevention here), but I also want to point out that avoiding bites is not the end of interactions between children and pets. It is the one that attracts the most attention, of course, because it has the most devastating consequences, but:

You don’t want your children and your dog to live in fear of each other.

Regardless of whether there is a risk of a bite or not (and there is always a small risk of a bite), you want your children and your pets to live happily together. You want everyone to feel safe and comfortable. So, let’s see how to achieve this when you have dogs and toddlers and you just want everyone to get along.

TEACH YOUR CHILD TO APPROPRIATELY HANDLE ALL DOGS, NOT JUST YOUR DOG.

This is where it all starts.

Don’t be the parent who trips and trips their child and waves to a random dog. “Oh, she just loves dogs” is never a reason for bad behavior.

Start when they are babies (I have a ton of ideas and resources on how to get along with dogs and babies in this article) and teach them that they are not allowed to approach or touch a dog without talking to them first–and they, in turn, check with the dog’s owner first. Show them what is good and what is not when petting a dog. Demonstrate how to be gentle, how not to pull or grab, how to always approach from the side. Children absorb and imitate our behavior; Make sure you behave appropriately with dogs.

With your own dog, make sure that your child knows clear boundaries: for example, leave the dogs alone during meal times or never enter the dog cage or anything that suits your family and the way your dog is trained. Involve your child in the care of your dog (more on that in a Minute), but be aware that this can only happen when you are present.

Cute girl and her dog friend

GIVE YOUR DOG SPACE TO ESCAPE.

Your pets should never feel obligated to interact with your child. Never. Give them the ability to apologize for a Situation. For this we use baby gates. (Also, we want the cats to be able to come and go as they please, so we use such doors to make sure that all species are happy and safe.)

As an mature, you should also monitor your pet. Cooper is a perfect example of a dog who is so desperate to always date me, he would choose to feel uncomfortable staying by my side. When Violet plays with toys that scare her, like her fire truck, or when the baby screams or whatever, I just ask Cooper to come with me to the kitchen, where I hand him A Kong full of food (I have a stash of these big Kongs filled with PB or yogurt, in the freezer) He happily works on his toys while I supervise the girls.

KEEP AN EYE ON EVERYTHING.

Speaking Of Surveillance…

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about dog bites, and one of the most common – and heartbreaking – things I’ve read over and over is this: “I only walked away for a second.”

(Parental controls are clearly beyond the scope of this article. So whether your child can independently and safely play somewhere or not is up to you and your family.)

Honestly, we all have to withdraw from time to time. Throughout the day, I have to go to the bathroom. Or take a sip of water. Or take a call. Baby gates are handy, of course, but I also take Coop with me if it’s something quick, like going to the bathroom or grabbing a rag (I always need a rag… everything is always overflowing…). This way I know that Violet is sure to do what she was busy doing while Coop is with me.

If it’s not possible to leave Violet where she’s playing (like in the yard) and I need to do something quickly, like change baby’s diaper or get some snacks or whatever, she needs to come with me. She usually complains, but she is pretty solid when it comes to security, Communication, supervision, etc.