Raising kids with canines

Denise Powell, Nicholas Lacy, Catherine Hackney and Ziggy enjoy a walk along the esplanade.
Denise Powell, Nicholas Lacy, Catherine Hackney and Ziggy enjoy a walk along the esplanade. Max Fleet

THE old showbiz adage goes that you should never work with animals or children, but it's an option many everyday families don't have as they find themselves juggling the two.

And one of the biggest challenges for new mums and dads with pets can be making sure everyone gets along.

Dog Matters Training Services trainer Tenille Williams said welcoming a baby to a family that already included a dog was all about being prepared and taking the right steps to ensure the household's four-legged friend had time to adjust to the new arrival.

"I encourage people to do a lot of research before getting any new pet and to give their dogs training, especially in preparation for a new baby," Ms Williams said.

"Early planning would be the most important thing you can do when preparing to introduce a baby to your dog."

Ms Williams said integrating a new bub with a pet was simply a matter of preparation and training.

Ms Williams said unless a dog had aggression issues, families shouldn't panic and get rid of their pet without first giving everyone a chance to get along.


Q. Do people tend to rehome their pets when kids come along or are perceptions changing?

A. When people get rid of their pets when kids come along, there can be a couple of reasons for this.

One is that they feel they have a lack of time for the pet so it would be kinder for the dog to go to a new home.

If the dog has ever displayed aggression in the past or is possessive of food, toys or other objects, I would recommend the dog be rehomed to a family without young children.

On a lighter note, a lot of families get a new pet to be part of the family along with their kids and the whole family gets a lot of joy out of pet ownership, this is always great to see.


Q. What steps can families take to make sure their dog will be ready before the baby comes along?

A. The key to making this transition is careful planning and practise long before the baby is due.

Certain breeds are better suited to the family environment and young children than others.

A dog that has been introduced to babies and young children as a young puppy and had a positive experience with them is far more likely to accept them positively in the future. Basic training and obedience is important because you don't want an overly excitable dog around babies or young children and basic obedience training can teach dogs to control themselves.

Back to practising in advance - set up objects, sounds and routines that will be followed when the baby has arrived, some parents even practise with a baby doll.

Items to get the dog used to include high chairs - including food and bowls on them and strollers.

The dog needs to learn to maintain a safe distance from these things and must also learn not to jump on furniture or people.

Practising the routine, smells and sounds that will be happening when the baby arrives can make a big difference when the time comes.


Q. What kinds of contact are appropriate for young children and pets?

A. All contact between dogs and young children should be closely supervised, no matter how much you trust your dog.

You also need to make sure the dog doesn't have any experience that might make him view children negatively.

Kids can be rough so an adult should be present to make sure that it's all very gentle petting and no highly excitable games, noises or movements.

Toddlers are at a higher risk of dog bites as the way they move and the noises they make can seem like prey to a dog.

They can also play too roughly and accidentally hurt the dog which can also cause the dog to bite.

As for age to be left unsupervised, I don't think you can put a number on that as it depends on the individual child.

Generally children become gentler as they get older. Remember it only takes a split second for a dog to bite so supervision and teaching the kids the right way to interact with dogs are very important.

More information

New dog or cat? Head to for a handy guide to the best breeds for your lifestyle.

Head to for useful fact sheets on helping kids and pets get along.

Training your pet? Visit

Topics:  parenting

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