Toddlers and Pets

Amanda - posted on 02/13/2011 ( 13 moms have responded )

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I have a 16 month old son and two older dogs-about 9 years old. My 16 month old really likes the dogs; he will give them hugs and kisses. However, when he's not hugging or kissing them he is tormenting them in some way- kicking, hitting, or chasing are the three most common. I tell him no everytime and try to redirect him, but it seems like once he starts, it's really hard to get him to stop. The dogs have been great about it so far and will normally come to me when he is pestering them, but I would certainly hate for him to get hurt. If anyone has any ideas on how I can get my toddler to stop abusing the dogs, I would greatly appreciate it!

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Kate CP - posted on 02/13/2011

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Don't panic; I'm a dog trainer.

What do you do when he misuses a toy? You take it away. Get a crate for the dogs and whenever he can't leave the dogs alone just crate the dogs (only for 10 minutes or so) and tell him "I have to put the doggies up because you can't be nice to them." Or, if you're not comfortable using a crate for the dogs (but, honestly, it's the safest method and dogs really DO like crates) you can put the dogs outside for 10-15 minutes. When you let the dogs back in or out of their crate make sure you're right there with your son and show him "nice petting" and "gentle kisses" with the dogs and praise him when he's good with the animals.

This is NOT punishing the dogs for your son's behavior! Think of it as giving the dogs a much needed break from an overly-affectionate toddler. ;)

Amber - posted on 02/14/2011

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I had a large gate that separated the living room from the kitchen and dining room. I would open the door on the gate and let the dogs into the other side and tell my son that the doggies weren't feeling loved and when he was ready to be nice we could bring them back.
I had cages for them, but they liked being in the kitchen better. So, that's what we did.

Elfrieda - posted on 02/14/2011

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I've got a cat and a 14 month old boy. He's slowly learning to be gentle, and the cat is slowly learning not to freak out and run away every time she sees him. :) We spend time every day patting the cat together, and if he gets too excited and starts hitting the cat, I hold his hand (which he hates!) and make him pat her gently, and tell him "Gentle, ah-ah". It works some of the time. The cat, who has always HATED children (not scratching, just hiding) is getting more used to him, and I actually came across them a week ago where he was playing and the cat was lying beside him, covered with two toys! Now he wants to "hug" her by resting his head on her belly and she doesn't like that much, either.
I don't worry about it too much, because she can always get away if she's really bothered. Is there a way for your dogs to get to a place where he can't get? It's harder for dogs, because they are sort of the same size as a toddler. But I think that if you keep training him, he'll learn to be gentle with animals, and the dogs will gain another walker, treat-giver, and companion. It's just this awkward stage you've got to get through.

Laurie - posted on 02/14/2011

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I had the same problem. Sometimes it takes a while for things to sink in. Maybe in addition to a time out for son and dog, you could try taking away a favorite toy or activity. He might be too young for this or it might work. With my son, if something wasn't working, then it helped to change things up a little. Good luck!

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Lindsey - posted on 02/16/2011

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i wouldnt worry about that, my son is 14 months in couple of weeks and he does that to my dog. and my dogs just lays or sits there taking it! i even tell me son "no" but he still does it. its where he's trying to play with them. x

Amanda - posted on 02/15/2011

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previously, we were living with my in-laws, so it was much easier to separate the dogs. Now that we have our own place, the set-up makes it a little harder. Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions. I will just keep working on it! (Just like with everything and a toddler!) :)

Merry - posted on 02/14/2011

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I agree with the crate solution, the dogs need protection so to speak, the dogs may be like family, but they can't be getting in the way of your son learning to behave!
Maybe just put them in the crate with a dog treat. Honestly they don't have such complex emotions like we think they do. :)

Amanda - posted on 02/14/2011

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Okay. Thanks again everyone. I have tried time out for the boy, but it is quite difficult with a one year old! :)

Kate CP - posted on 02/13/2011

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Honestly they won't think of it as punishment to be confined for a short period of time. Especially if you don't sound angry or get rough with them.

Amanda - posted on 02/13/2011

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Thanks Donna. They sometimes seem happy about it, but I want them to know that I love them too!

Donna - posted on 02/13/2011

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Amanda, my dogs are glad when I put them up after an abusive grandson keeps pestering them. They hurry out when I open the door so they can escape our little one.

Amanda - posted on 02/13/2011

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Kate,
I have tried isolating the dogs. I am worried though, like you mentioned, that the dogs are being punished for the child's behavior. I want to do the right thing (we do have dog crates. However, we no longer have a fenced yard, so I can't put them outside.) Thanks for the help!

Donna - posted on 02/13/2011

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I totally agree with Kate C...get a crate. You have got to protect everyone involved!!

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