Toddlers and Puppies

Aren’t they just so cute together?

Things to consider if you’re entertaining the idea of bringing a puppy (under 6 months old) into a home with toddlers (under 3 years old) and why I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Both puppies and toddlers require our undivided attention and guidance; they should and will explore their environment, they should and will exert themselves to figure out where they fit in and how they can manoeuvre in their environment, they learn how to communicate, and how to find comfort. What they are exposed to and how situations are handled will impact how secure their development is and how they will respond as they get older.

It’s our job as parents and caregivers to ensure that the experiences are age appropriate, controlled, positive, and safe for child and pup. Attempting to teach this simultaneously to two different species will leave one or the other “unfulfilled” and while we pride ourselves on the ability to multi-task we can never give 100% to those tasks at the same time.

There are many adjustments made when a child comes into our lives; Time management, financial stresses, life-style changes, and lack of sleep are but a few. Sleepless nights due to teething, changes in routine, or illness, can leave the parents exhausted and leave very little time for other responsibilities or self-care.

Puppies bring with them similar requirements as they learn and grow. They will have accidents in the house; they need training and proper socialization at age specific stages to avoid having to “fix” issues later in development. Puppies require physical and mental stimulation to avoid developing unwanted behaviours. There is a small window of opportunity to accomplish this as they develop and grow so rapidly.

Puppies and toddlers won’t “grow up” together in the sense of bonding; however, they will simultaneously go through growth and learning stages that require our undivided attention. We hopefully have many years to parent our children and teach them well. Unfortunately we have a much smaller window with dogs so waiting until we can invest the appropriate amount of time is always in a puppy’s best interest.

Imagine your toddler graduating from crawling to walking, it’s a proud moment. Keep in mind in the process of learning to walk they will use walls, tables, legs, or anything they can grab for stability. What happens if they grab hold of puppy for balance? They could end up with a bite, unintentional as it may be it will not be nice. The child didn’t mean to hurt the puppy, the puppy didn’t mean to hurt the child; both act on instinct but both get hurt.

Imagine your youngster is teething; everything goes in the mouth, including dog toys and hair.

Imagine you’re having a potty moment with child, but the puppy also needs to go outside; there will no doubt be an accident in the house.

Consider our weather; scheduling time to fulfil the puppy’s daily needs to get outdoors for exercise and training is essential. What about health issues, allergies, environmental sensitivities? What happens to the puppy if the child is allergic? There are too many possibilities with children at this age to commit with confidence that you will always have the time to give the puppy what he needs too.

Too many times puppies are returned because families didn’t realize how much time was required to train and raise them, or the puppy bit a child, or the child developed allergies. More often than not these dogs are returned with little to no training; they have developed bad habits, and haven’t been taught boundaries or had structure. They are now older and the focus of training switches to one of undoing unwanted behaviour.

If you are considering bringing a puppy into your home I suggest waiting until the children are at an age where they can be involved appropriately in the process. Let them be part of looking for and choosing the puppy. Teach them essential manners and appropriate behaviours around dogs before bringing a puppy home. Wait until they are old enough to attend training classes with you. Ensure that your family has the time and ability to raise a healthy balanced puppy.

We owe them all this.

Lynne Hind

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