Having kids does not mean you can’t have dogs. It does mean you have to understand how to best make introductions, oversee interactions and make all family members feel special and safe.
Kelly Culver-Mattiuz, a SHUG supporter and foster mom, knows this all too well – having four children under the age of 13 and, ahem, quite a few dogs.
So we asked her for her tips on making it work:
Let me start from the beginning. I started off with my parenting life with two dachshunds and a baby on the way. I wasn’t sure how I was going to prepare myself and the dogs for a newborn. After all, I was going to be a first time mom and only had my dogs for two years. What if they did not like the baby? What if they hurt the baby? Would they be jealous?
I did not have time to just sit and find out. I enrolled both dogs in obedience classes. We learned a lot. The most important thing they learned was "place" or "crate" . . . to go to their place (which was their dog bed) and go to their crate. As months went on I set up the nursery, let the dogs in the nursery as I worked and washed and got things ready for my daughter. I played baby crying sounds, I left the car seat out on the sofa and would carry it around as if it contained a baby.
Then came the birth of my daughter. I sent home the hospital blanket with my daughter’s smell on it and had my husband let the dogs smell it. When I came home with the baby, I brought her inside and held her in my arms so they could see her. By then, they didn’t care at all. I went forward through the months allowing my daughter to see the dogs and the dogs to see my daughter. I would take her baby hand and pet the dogs and say "nice doggie" and praise the dogs for being so good.
Of course the baby stage is short and soon I had a toddler walking around, picking up dog food and trying to lick out of the water dish. That means time for obedience school for the toddler. Same concept as the dogs, reward for the correct behavior (usually clapping and saying good girl, maybe a cookie). For bad behaviors – yeah, like licking out of the water dish -- it was NO in a firm voice and then redirecting.
Truly dogs and kids are so much alike when it comes to training. So if you can train your dog, your child is just as easy. I taught my daughter how to feed the dogs by age 2. She helped hold the leash on walks and helped with every day care of our dogs. Then came daughters #2, #3 and #4, along with additional dogs.
Over time, I have learned to relax. I’ve learned sometimes you just have to order that pizza! I have learned that routine is important. I have learned that rules and breed knowledge is important to teach the older children. One of the easiest parts is figuring out what I expect to take place and learning how to ask for help and give direction. Older children have the poop duty chore!! Younger children help feed, let dogs in and out to potty, and of course everyone helps with entertainment! The dogs in return teach responsibility and compassion to my children.
In my house we have the strict rules to not disturb a sleeping dog. Do not run around dogs. If you want your items safe from puppy teeth put them up and close your bedroom door. Allow the dogs and the kids to have their safe area away from each other. Crates are a wonderful tool; my dogs all have their own crate and can go there at any time to just get away. My daughters have their bedrooms
We have had those crazy moments when a glass of wine and a hot soak in a quiet bathroom is a must. Take for instance an emergency trip to the vet for broken toes on a 4-month-old borzoi, children missing the school bus home, last minute homework projects and a bout of diarrhea from a paralyzed dog all within 30 minutes of each other.
But those crazy times aside, kids and dogs can work well together!