“If your dog loves children and is well rehearsed in appropriate behaviors with children, it is possible to allow your child to interact with your dog at an early age. It really depends on your dog’s tolerance for children,” says Nicole Gipps, animal behaviorist. based in Concord, California. Many children become interested in dogs when they are only 6 months old. It’s okay if your dog is comfortable with the attention and you keep a close eye on your baby at all times. Never leave a child alone with a dog, even if it is your well-trained and docile pet. You never know what might make a dog snap.
Older dogs are often less tolerant of small children, and puppies can be unpredictable. Your child won’t be ready for real “play” like throwing a ball, giving commands, or chasing until they’re much older. Teach your child good dog manners as soon as he starts showing interest in dogs. This means not tugging on their ears or tails, hitting or teasing, or leaving dogs alone when they are eating, sleeping, feeling ill, or chewing on a bone.
Teach your child to lower his voice when playing with a dog and avoid sudden movements. Before approaching an unfamiliar animal, teach your child to ask the pet owner if the dog is friendly and if they can pet it. Once she has been given permission to pet a dog, she must first offer her clenched fist to the dog to sniff to introduce herself. This will protect her fingers in case the dog tries to bite them. If there is a dog in your neighborhood or park, keep your child away from it. And never approach a tethered dog, even if you know the dog and seem friendly, unless the owner is nearby and you can ask permission.
Some parents fear that dogs pass germs on to their children when they lick or drool. It’s true that dogs can have bacteria in their mouths, especially if they’ve been chewing on unsanitary items. However, germs tend to be species specific, which means that canine germs are unlikely to make your baby sick. Some experts even believe that contact with dogs and dog saliva may help children avoid asthma and allergies later in life by challenging their immune systems. So, while you probably don’t want your dog to “kiss” your baby regularly, a few licks are here and you have nothing to worry about.