1. Put a lead on your dog. Let the child approach it, but make sure that he or she maintains eye contact with you rather than the dog. A dog will feel threatened by a staring child because it interprets staring as aggressive behaviour.
2. Let the child stroke the dog along its side but tell the child not to pat its head.
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3. Praise the dog for its good behaviour if appropriate, but reprimand it if it snaps or growls.
Dogs should be taught to lie down and relax while children are playing around them, even if they are doing something exciting like playing with a ball. Once you are confident that your dog can cope with older children, it will probably be able to deal with toddlers. If your dog is particularly prone to guarding or chasing, however, or if it has ever threatened anyone, it is sensible to muzzle it in the presence of toddlers.
Dogs are generally curious about babies, so if one has recently joined your household, ask a friend or your partner to help you to introduce the dog to your new offspring. Babies’ flailing limbs and cries may startle even the most placid of animals, so it’s important that your dog becomes used to the new arrival. One of you should hold the baby and the other the dog’s lead. Let the dog see and sniff the baby, but not touch it. If the dog behaves well, praise it and play with it while the baby is in the room. It is also sensible to feed the dog in the baby’s presence to show it that it has not been supplanted in your affections.
But remember: however gentle your pet, never, ever leave it alone with a baby or small child.