Children and dogs are a natural combination. Most people have fond memories of growing up with a dog. But just as children and dogs can offer each other companionship, they can also feel threatened by the addition of a new family member.

Therefore, before the newcomer,be it baby or dog, arrives, it is best to prepare the family by explaining what will change and what will not (your love), setting rules and limits and monitoring the interaction..

Babies and dogs

Babies mean new sights, sounds and smells and they take the lion’s share of everyone’s attention. And all of these things may make your dog or cat feel threatened..

If you plan ahead, you can make the arrival of a new baby much less stressful for you and your dog..

Begin by introducing scents, such as baby powder and lotion, before the baby’s arrival. You can do this by using these products on yourself or on a small doll..

Once you have the nursery set up, allow your dog to gently inspect it. Install a baby gate and begin using it, or close the door when you aren’t around so your dog doesn’t have free access to this room. This helps establish boundaries before the baby arrives..

Once the baby is born, have your spouse or a familiar relative take a piece of baby clothing or a baby blanket home for your dog to smell..

Keep the homecoming a quiet event. Throwing a party or inviting a bunch of guests right away will only make your dog more nervous and excitable..

Have dad or a familiar relative carry the baby in so that mum can greet the dog. Only after your dog has settled down should you attempt to introduce the newcomer.

Keep the first meeting brief and supervised. It may help to have someone familiar hold your dog while mum holds the baby. Holding the dog provides a means of positive attention and safety.

It is a good idea to spend some special quality time with your dog once the baby has settled in for a nap. When the baby awakes and begins crying, provide reassurance to your dog to help alleviate any agitation at the new sound..

No matter how well the relationship seems to be progressing, never leave the baby and dog together unsupervised..

Bringing your new rescue dog home

Bringing home a new dog is similar to bringing home a baby..

Establish a quiet, out-of-the-way place for your new dog and set boundaries for interaction. Just as your dog should not be allowed free access to the nursery, your child should not have free access to the new dog’s “home.”

Interactions should be supervised at all times and limited, especially during the first few months..

Once the child and dog are comfortable around each other, invent games to play together, such as fetch.

Toddlers and dogs

The toddler years are the most difficult for child-dog interactions. The toddler is old enough to get to the dog, but not old enough to handle dogs responsibly..

The normal sudden movements and high-pitched noises of a toddler may cause your dog to become overly excited or agitated. Therefore, it is important to continue watching interactions carefully..

Many dogs adore children and will withstand vast amounts of rough play, but it is best to begin setting limits.

Reading books about animals to your child can help your toddler understand that dogs have feelings too..

Take advantage of the enormous attention your child pays to your every move by using it as an example for acceptable behaviour around dogs.

While your child is watching, gently rub your dog behind the ears, all the while talking in a low soothing voice to your dog..

Children and your new rescue dog, learning to get along

Once your children are past the toddler stage, they are old enough to learn how to act around animals.

Teach children not to bother family dogs when they are sleeping or eating. They shouldn’t dog a dog without asking permission and letting the dog sniff their hand first. And they should never chase or corner cats or dogs..

You may want to involve your child in the daily care of your dog. Small children can be taught to scoop food into a dish, or help brush a patient dog. If the dog is small enough to be handled, show your child how to properly pick up your dog..

Again, it is important to supervise these activities. It is also important to teach your dog how to behave. If your dog nips, react with a loud “ow” and end playtime. Teach your children to cross their arms if the dog nips, and to turn their back to the dog, thus ending the play session. Get the dog used to having things removed from its mouth..

Remove the food dish or a special toy during food or play time respectively, give your dog a treat and then return the dish / toy immediately, so that your dog will learn not to guard food or toys..

Arrange for you and your dog to attend an obedience class to speed learning of proper behaviour..

By monitoring your children and dogs and creating positive ways for them to interact, you can be assured of a happy family mix and hours of joyful play..

Supervision is essential at all times

No matter how calm your dog is with your child, or how well your child plays with your dog, it is important to supervise interaction at all times..

It only takes seconds for a child to be injured by a dog that has been accidentally startled or hurt.