Dogs and Toddlers: How to keep your child safe

Dogs & toddlers need understanding & management so they can have a lifelong friendship. Discover how to keep your toddler safe around dogs.

If you thought that having a baby and a dog was a juggling act, then let me start by offering you a warm welcome to toddlerhood! 

Your baby is now a crawling, toddling, noise machine, and everything feels unpredictable and a little bit worrying at times too. 

You want your toddler to be safe in the company of your dog. You want your dog to feel relaxed and content. And ultimately, you want your dog to be a bomb-proof member of the family that you can be proud of. 

In this post, we will cover the best foundations that you can lay to keep your toddler and your dog safe, living in harmony together, so they can grow to be the best of friends. 

The best dog for toddlers

I’m often asked which dog breed is the best for toddlers. And the answer might surprise you. 

The best dog for toddlers is one who is understood, respected, and is given appropriate boundaries and space to set him/her up for success. 

You’re not wrong to be worried about dog bites. Without close supervision and management, they are a very real problem. But contrary to many a tale, they seldom come out of nowhere. 

By taking the time to teach your child and your dog what behaviours are acceptable and utilizing simple management techniques while everyone is learning, you can increase everybody’s comfort and safety. 

Toddlers are unpredictable and still very much learning about their world. It’s beautiful, it’s tiring, and at times it can be challenging. And for your dog, all those sudden movements and bursts of noise are unsettling and sometimes alarming too. 

dogs and toddlers

How do I protect my toddler from my dog?

Both kids and dogs need the freedom to have time and space to act just as they are. They don’t naturally know how to live in harmony together. They are both curious and exploring the limits of their world, which is important for their development. 

Your toddler will have tantrums. They will find it difficult to understand why they shouldn’t pull the dog’s tail, and they will want to pull out all their toys onto the floor for a mammoth play session. 

Your dog doesn’t know the difference between a dog toy and your toddler’s toy. So when it’s your little one’s playtime, take the opportunity to give your dog some alone time where he/she won’t be tempted to give your toddler’s favourite toy a chew!

"When active Supervision is not possible, the solution is Alone Time."

Management + Supervision = Child safety around dogs

Both your child and your dog need opportunities to express themselves without the worry of damaging the relationship they have with each other.

"Management is the key which unlocks calm. Supervision is the tool that makes it all possible."

tools like baby gates, a crate, and sufficient exercise for your dog will make life much easier for everyone. Having stuffed kongs and long-lasting chews on hand will help you successfully encourage short periods of alone time for your dog when you cannot give your full attention. 

Equally, having a busy bag for your toddler or some fun activities that you only bring out when you cannot give your attention will make it easier for your little one to occupy themselves while you tend to your dog or household chores.

Supervision is the time when you can proactively be present with your dog and your toddler in the same space. This isn’t the time to be scrolling on your phone or trying to clear the table after lunch. This time needs your full attention. 

It is here that you can lay the foundations of understanding between your toddler and your dog. You can teach mutual respect at an age-appropriate level.

Teaching your toddler how to stay safe around dogs

This video is a perfect starting point to teach your toddler the basic foundations that will keep them safe with your dog and any others they meet. 

We want your toddler to begin learning some basic rules that have to be respected when interacting with dogs. 

  1. I pat with one hand collar to tail
  2. I hug friends, I don’t hug dogs
  3. When he eats or sleeps, I walk away
  4. If he jumps, I freeze, still and quiet

Using the power of song makes it easy for your toddler to begin understanding the rules in a fun and memorable way. 

Dog warning signs to learn

You will feel much more confident and better prepared to keep everyone safe and content if you learn the warning signs your dog is sharing. 

These signs will help you to understand your dog so that you can support appropriate interactions more easily. 

Your dog’s calming signals are behaviours they exhibit when they are beginning to get stressed or uncomfortable. They’re easy to miss when you don’t know them. 

  • The head turn - when your dog turns his head away from something or shifts his body so, he needs space
  • The lip lick - when your dog licks his lips, and he’s not just devoured a tasty treat, he may be uncomfortable with an interaction
  • The yawn - Yawning when not just arising from a sleep can be a sign your dog is beginning to feel stressed
  • The whale eye - when you can see the whites of your dog’s eye, it’s likely he requires space
  • The tail tuck - A dog with a tucked tail is not happy, he needs distance
  • The move for space - if your dog is actively trying to seek space, he needs it

Recognizing these signs enables you to calmly and respectfully meet your dog’s needs for space so that they can relax and decompress. 

The following behaviours are signs that your dog’s stress levels are escalating. You need to intervene and provide alone time immediately. 

  • Freezing - if your dog’s body freezes still, he is preparing to take action
  • Growling - a growl is getting close to a final warning before a bite
  • Air snapping - this is the last warning before your dog feels he has no other alternatives but to bite

While witnessing these behaviours can be alarming, it is crucial that your dog is not punished or reprimanded for them. Punishing this behaviour can result in your dog ditching them, and that is when bites happen ‘out of nowhere.’

If your dog learns that these warning signs are ineffective, he’ll ditch them. And that leaves him only one place to go.

dogs and toddlers

Raising your toddler and your dog with respect, love, and harmony

Family life is busy, and fitting in time for training can feel overwhelming alongside everything else you have on your plate. When you understand your dog and how to simultaneously manage family dynamics alongside his needs, the stress you feel is greatly relieved.

By implementing management and supervision, you can restore calm and clarity to your life so that your dog and your toddler grow into the best of friends. With a relationship founded on mutual respect and understanding that you can be ridiculously proud of.

If you’d like to book a free 30-minute consultation to help you lay solid family foundations in a fun and practical way that gets the whole family on board, I’d love to hear from you. 

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