Since our current apartment complex has a dog park, we meet new dogs on a regular basis. Every time I see a new dog in the dog park or coming towards us on a walk, here are the actions I take:
- I keep my dog, Wally, on his lease and ask him to sit. This shows me he’s still listening.
- I put my toddler, Sadie, in my arms or keep her in her stroller.
- If the owner says the new dog is friendly, I let Wally say hello. If growling ensues when they meet, I remove Wally from the situation. (Usually it’s the other dog that growls).
- If the owner says the new dog is comfortable with kids, I help Sadie hold her hand out for the dog to sniff or lick. If it seems like too much, I’ll pick her up. (Usually this would be the dog licking her face or almost knocking her over).
Because we’ve had Wally since Sadie was very young, she’s very comfortable with dogs. I love this about her but I also believe it’s important to teach her not all dogs will be as friendly as Wally. I make sure she watches me ask the owner first before I approach a new dog and she sees me hold my hand out, palm up, before petting the dog.
I encourage Sadie to give Wally lots of love and attention. We always say good morning and goodnight to him. She knows how to pet him and brings him his toys. Lately, her favorite game is to ‘call Wally’ when in the bathtub and he will come and give her kisses. I also think it’s important for her see me giving Wally individual attention so she understands he needs love too and it’s not all about her 24/7. Almost like a sibling would teach her.
Similarly, I encourage Wally to be gentle with Sadie. When he lets her pet him or play with his things, I tell him he’s a good boy as positive reinforcement.
Most of all, I love that Sadie and Wally get along. It makes me very happy and makes me feel like we made the right choice in getting a puppy when Sadie was so little. Although it may not be right for every family, if you feel it’s right for your family, having a friend for your little one and teaching them how to interact with dogs is a huge benefit.
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