Dogs and Toddlers: How to Dog Train While Parenting

parent and toddler in field with dog
Photo by debasige/Shutterstock

Training dogs while parenting toddlers doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as you might think. Whether you’re adopting your first canine companion or trying to teach your old dog new tricks, we’ve got some tips that can help you get through it, even while you have your hands full with your toddler.

Training dogs and parenting toddlers can give you visions of spinning plates on your hands and feet. Because of that, it’s not uncommon for dog training to fall by the wayside so you can focus your attention on caring for your little one.

But, because toddlers need so much time and attention, it’s more important than ever to have a well-behaved, obedient dog.

So, while you might be busy parenting a toddler, making dog training a priority is crucial for everyone’s well-being. Doing so will create a safer, healthier, and happier environment for all members of your household.

Set Priorities

Your dog doesn’t necessarily have to pass a master class in obedience right now. You can save certain things, including some tricks and other “fun” ideas for a later time. For now, focus on what’s really important for your dog to learn, including:

  • Respecting you as their leader
  • Basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come”
  • Staying in their crate
  • Understanding boundaries
  • How they need to behave around your toddler

Perhaps the most important step in training your dog is the first one listed above. If you don’t have your dog’s respect, they’re less likely to pay attention to your training commands. Be firm with your commands and use things like treats or food to motivate them. You can train your dog relatively quickly by setting aside just 10 minutes a day in a quiet place without distractions.

It’s also important to give your dog plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a good dog, but it’s also a grateful dog. When your pet realizes you’re the one feeding them and taking them for walks, they’ll be eager to please you.

Consider installing a fence in your backyard for your training sessions. Not only can dogs run around freely and burn off some energy, but toddlers will love being outside, too, so you can compartmentalize your time and give attention to both dog and toddler. As a bonus, a fence can add a lot of value to your home!

Let Your Little One Get Involved

Most young children naturally gravitate toward animals unless they feel they have a reason to be scared. Encourage a bond between dogs and toddlers, but it’s also important to ensure they have safe relationships. That will require dogs respecting and understanding toddlers, too.

So, don’t be afraid to let toddlers get involved with training plans for dogs. Toddlers can learn things like how to give basic commands, and they can participate in basic care for the dog, including feeding them and cleaning up after them.

Thankfully, many of the things that will keep your dog entertained and quiet (especially if you’re working from home and can’t afford distractions!) are things your child will enjoy, too. You can designate a play area for your dog and toddler when you have to take a work call, and make sure you’re investing in the right toys that will make it easy for your toddler to play with your dog, so they’ll both stay busy. Or, let them go outside to play, as long as you can see them from where they’re working. Kids need exercise just as much as pets, so running around in the backyard will benefit them both.

Is training dogs while parenting toddlers always easy? No. There will be moments when you feel overwhelmed and stressed. But, the more dedicated you are to training your four-legged friend, the better their relationship with your child will be, and the easier things will end up being, in the long run.

Sam Bowman writes about families, wellness, and how the two merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

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