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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


20 November 2012

Mixing kids & dogs: a 'how to' resource list

Hi Mia, 

Friends for life is a wonderful way to describe growing from childhood to adulthood with a dog. For me, Arf was always around till a living, breathing dog came into my life, and you clearly thought dogs were the bomb from an early age! 

And speaking of childhood dogs, how awesome is the Childhood Dog Photo Challenge that you started over on Facebook? Were you expecting people to post photos of so many dogs and kids from all over the world!?

Mia and Star; Julie and Arf
Nowadays, I imagine you and I are in the same position: People contact us with questions when a new baby is on the way and Fido’s already in the house or someone’s adding a dog to a family that already includes a child.

When this happens, I get uber excited. You and I clearly have a similar passion -- sharing information and resources -- so when an inquiry like this comes in, I can imagine we both go into OVERDRIVE!

While dogs and kids seem to have "effortless" relationships with "unconditional love," I find myself reminding parents-to-be that there are a lot of nuances that can make or break the relationship (clearly, my relationship with Arf was highly successful and bidirectional). 

There's so much to talk about when it comes to dogs and kids, and I tend to emphasize providing a dog with (1) a comfortable resting area and (2) space where a dog can choose to retreat from interactions. This is one of the main ideas I took away from my Masters program: there is a higher probability of good welfare and good interactions when animals have options and control. 

And I also pass out oodles of resources! Here are some resources pertaining to dogs and kids, including resources you shared with me from down under. Australia has great resources!

A Guide to Nurturing the Child and Pet Relationship from Pregnancy to Pre-school
The Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, Australia, put out this information, and it covers a lot, such as Preparation, The First Six Months and Baby on the Move. The strength of this guide is it reminds parents that new challenges arise at different stages of a child’s development. A dog’s perception of a newborn can change radically once that bugger starts moving around and grabbing onto anything and everything.

This website even has a Pet Planner Checklist that helps new parents prepare their dog, their house and themselves for a new baby. The checklist asks questions like: 

  • Do you need to change their current feeding routine? 
  • Which areas are going to be pet free zones?
  • Can your pet be comfortable and relaxed spending short periods of time in a crate or confined space? 
  • When the baby comes, have you organized someone to exercise the dog?

APSCA Guide To Kids and Pets
I particularly like the age-appropriate Activities for Kids and Pets as well as the section, How Kids Respond to Pets. As you point out, a toddler might think they are hugging another child when in fact, they've smashed the child to the ground, and toddlers can make the same mistake with dogs. Sometimes I think adults also have difficulty seeing their behavior for what it is and how it affects companion animals.

Family Paws

Family Paws is the parent organization of two international programs: Dogs & Storks and the Dog and Baby Connection. They offer programs for new and expecting families to support happy interactions among babies, toddlers and family dogs.

Their goal: “increase the safety of children and the success of dogs in homes with children. Decrease the number of dogs surrendered to shelters due to easily preventable behavioral problems and common conflicts.”
They offer trainer-run programs, DVDs and of course, a newsletter!

Animal Behavior Associates: Dog, Baby and Kid Resources

Dr. Suzanne Hetts and Dr. Dan Estep run Animal Behavior Associates. Both are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists. They offer videos and DVDs for smooth interactions between dogs, babies and kids.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Are there other resources that anyone's particularly fond of when it comes to dog, kids and babies?

Bye for now!


© Julie Hecht 2012
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  1. Great post! I will be forwarding to my brother who has 2 great dogs and a beautiful 6 month old baby boy. Coming from a shelter and veterinary background I have seen all too many times where this relationship becomes unstuck through lack of preparation and forethought. A resource that I have shared a lot is “Preparing Fido” which includes a CD and booklet. I’m not sure how useful it has ever been so I would be interested in hearing people’s comments/views.

    1. Hi Nell,

      Thanks for sharing. Where would people get "Preparing Fido" and do the creators of this product have a background in Ethology/Animal Behavior/Veterinary medicine or behavior? That's always my main question about these resources.



  2. This is a great post. Love the photos of you two as children!

    There is a fantastic new resource developed by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, designed for use with years 5 and 6. It includes lots of great activities for kids and a teacher's pack:

    1. Ooh! Thanks for sharing. Will check that out!


  3. I beleive that the bond between dogs and children has very positive effects. It encourages the process of attachment and the development of relationships. This can be very helpful in later childhood and just generally later in life. By creating a bond like this early on, it can create a feeling of independence in children that could improve their social skills. For these psychological reasons, I definitely agree with this post.

  4. Doggone Safe is another great resource for teaching kids about dog safety (and bite prevention) that should get added to the great resources you've got listed:

    I think dogs can be a wonderful thing for children - but it does take educating parents, children and dogs alike to make sure it's a positive experience for everyone. I'm a licensed Family Paws presenter and have dedicated my career specifically to working with families with dogs. Thanks for the great post!


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