If you’re planning on introducing a new furry friend into the household and unsure if the dog is very kid-friendly, there are so many unknowns you’re facing and need to be prepared to work through if your dog isn’t the biggest fan of kids. If you have step kids or nieces/nephews that your dog will be meeting in the near future and you have hesitations, then read on!
Cesar Milan emphasizes how important it is to focus on your own energy. Your dog tends to mirror your energy even if you think you’re masking it, they’re much smarter than that. Be as calm as possible when first introducing the baby or kid. Let the dog sniff at a distance and observe—never pressure.
Even though I don’t have firsthand experience to report on since my baby isn’t due until December, I can offer tips on how I work with my dog introducing her to toddlers and kids. I am not an expert, this is just works for me and my dog. I think she will be perfectly fine with a newborn and knowing she’s mine. On the other hand, squealing and quick-moving strange toddlers in her your dog’s eyes is a different story that requires a diligence and PATIENCE on your end.
Educate the Kid First
Teach your kids the proper way to pet a dog, and that is NEVER to reach out a hovering hand OVER the head. Always go for under the chin/side of face if the dog will allow your kid to pet. Have your kid hold a treat in her outstretched palm for dog to take it. While dog is eating the treat, retract the hand. Do not allow your kid to point at the dog and make any sudden quick movements.
Plan the first meet & greet in a neutral setting
Just like how it’s better for two reactive dogs to be meeting in a neutral setting (aka not your own home), the same applies for the first introduction between kid and dog. A park is always the safest route to go. Make sure your dog is on a leash and allow him to observe your kid from a distance and then closer. Do not let the kid approach your dog yet, have your dog make out his scent and just be in your kid’s presence. See how that interaction goes at first before progressing to one-on-one interaction.
Baby Gate the House
If you’re forced to be under the same roof with kid and baby and have not had any luck getting your dog to be receptive, the safest route is to set up baby gates and make sure your kid understands not to cross that boundary as that is dog’s space. Over time, hopefully the dog will get used to his new settings. Again, this will take patience and an understanding that it’s an effort on all sides.
Always Encourage Positive Behavior
Reward your dog for every positive behavior he takes around the baby or kid, even if that’s an indifferent sniff in the kid’s direction. Positive reinforcement works best over time and sets the right example. Do not use punishment or force.
Know When to Get Help
You must stay vigilant for signs of aggression (look for wide eyes, hard stares, perhaps a low gutteral growl). Aggressive manage can be managed but it’s not going to happen overnight. Seek professional help through a dog trainer who specializes in reactivity, especially with kids. The mismatch of a dog and kid is way too big of a risk, so training is worth the investment.