Three Dogs and Two Babies: Staying Sane As They Grow
Iíve got to say I feel very fortunate to have three fairly well behaved middle aged dogs as part of our household. If I just had the kids, ages two and three, I donít think I would get a dog for quite some time. Kids this age are a lot of work, a lot of constant reminding, teaching and follow through. Adding a young animal to this is a huge amount of work. However, I realize that alot of my clients are already in the middle of this adventure of trying to raise young children with a new puppy or a young adult dog and struggle with keeping things under control without anyone getting hurt. My first advice to anyone who hasnít yet combined a young family, kids under 3 and a young dog, donít do it yet. Wait until your youngest child is four or five before getting a dog. Training a puppy to be a member of your family takes time, itís like having another baby, except they put you through eighteen years worth of work in two if you want to do it right.
If however, you are in the middle of raising a young dog with young kids there is hope and advice, itís just probably not quite what you were hoping to hear. First of all realize that children under four are not all that capable of feeling compassion for other living things.
This isnít going to be Lassie and Timmy, realize that your toddler may compete with the puppy for attention and not be at all in love with it as you had hoped. Oh sure theyíll be hugs and kisses and sweet moments, but theyíll also be pulled tails, kicks, pinches, squeezes and pokes that will set your heart racing from three rooms away. Toddlers and puppies are kind of the same animal, they are fun loving one moment and a tornado the next. They can make a mess of a room in two seconds flat, get in trouble like nobodyís business and melt our heart in a second with a sad faced look. They are more competitors for your time, attention and love than they are best buddies, but if you are up for the task go for it !
Teaching your puppy and your toddler to be together requires an ability to separate them by means of crates, gates and pens. Itís unfair to expect either party to leave each other alone on their own, and they will need lots of breaks from each other. Supervision is at the top of the list, never leave the two alone together. Both pup and child need to learn how to treat each other and neither party should have to put up with abuse, however well intentioned.
Exercise your puppy to exhaustion everyday, several times a day. If you canít find the time, hire someone to do it for you, a pet sitter or a dog daycare. The more your puppy gets to play and exercise, especially with other dogs, the less mouthy he will be to your toddler (and you) and the more fun they will have together.
Train your puppy. The first thing I would do with a new puppy is enroll him in puppy kindergarten. Not only will this start you out on building a strong relationship it will help you gain better control of your puppy around the house. Teaching a down/stay command may mean the difference between you being able to fold the laundry while child and dog are playing or your puppy spending most of the day in his crate.
Above all, get that puppy out to meet people, dogs and other kids. Though the weather doesnít always cooperate, it is imperative for you to take your puppy out NOW, before he is eighteen weeks old and let him meet the world. If you donít you will have behavior problems and aggression, I can almost guarantee it. Donít be caught short, this is the most important thing you can do for your puppy and there is no time to waste. It sounds like a tall order I know, and I donít envy anyone who is attempting to do it with young kids but it can be done.
Remember that there are lots of resources out there now in terms of petsitters, dog walkers, dog daycare, and dog trainers who would be more than willing to help you accomplish this seemingly impossible task. Raising a puppy and kids can and is done, you just have to be willing to hire out the parts that you canít do on your own. In the end you will be rewarded with the dog of your dreams, and a child who loves dogs because he has learned that they truly are an addition to the family. Happy Training !
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