Pet Connections

Kids & Dogs – Good Sense Tips

We all know the great relationships that people form with their dogs, and many had their start when we were just kids. Doesn’t everyone have a memory of their first dog, playing in the yard together or sneaking them into bed? Watching TV on the floor, trying to feed vegetables under the table or long summer walk are some of the sweet reminders of the bond between us and our first childhood fur-friend. As today’s lifestyles have changed, so has the advice and information we have about our furry friends and how to build the best relationships.

There are things parents can do to help get things off on the right foot. For example, “The dogs should be exposed to changes coming before they happen,” says Lilian Akin, local family dog trainer. You can push a stroller around, play sounds of babies crying and let the dog smell or experience what’s going to be happening in their world before the actual baby comes home. Many shelters offer a “Baby Ready Pets” course which goes over a list of situations and how to handle them that new parents might not have thought of. And there are online resources such as that offer a lot of information and suggestions.

Little babies should always have a person between them and the dog, as they are at the most risk for damage from even a small incident because of their size. “Dogs should never come in direct contact with small babies” says Lilian. “You can sit on the couch with your baby on one side and your dog on your other.  Or let the dog smell the baby through a baby gate.  It’s also important to see things from the dog’s point of view.” Most dogs are going to be interested in a new baby, but you want to avoid encouraging bad behavior from the dog when doing the introductions. “Some people hold the baby down to the dog’s level, then pick them up and away in their arms, which can encourage the dog to jump or try to get at the baby as if it were a toy,” Akin explains. 

Along with general manners, dogs can be taught extra commands such as “back-up” or “go” so they have a cue to escape or leave the situation if it becomes uncomfortable for them. Lilian teaches other baby specific things such as not stepping on the baby blanket so your pet can know what is expected of them. You can also teach the dog to lay down and be calm when the baby is on the floor, so they can share that special time together.

 “And even small children can be taught to be gentle and respectful of animals. Teaching children not to lay on the dog’s bed or go in its crate shows them how to be respectful of the dog’s space,” encourages Lilian. Most people know not to let the child go near the dog when its eating, as that makes some dogs uncomfortable, but don’t always extend that courtesy to other things the dog might view as theirs. And toddles can be scary to dogs. They walk funny, more quickly and fall and dogs don’t understand what’s going on. One of the ways to help them understand kids are good is to throw treats to the dog while the toddle is coming towards them. Or teaching the dog to lay by the highchair and reap the food that falls from the sky.

Lilian states that the number one thing people usually do that she would change is holding or trapping the dog while the child comes close to it. “Some people hold the dog by the collar or pin it down in an effort to restrain it while kids come close, and that can be very frightening experience for the dog. If it is afraid, that feeling of not being able to escape could make the dog react in a fearful way, as he has no choice. Yelling at the dog or swatting at the dog may make the dog resent the child, rather than teach him how he should act or what is good manners,” she says. And don’t punish the dog if it growls! Those growls are the dog’s way of saying “Hey, I’m uncomfortable here!” Listen to the dog and be thankful he was able to let you know so you can make good choices about how to handle things. Dogs want to be our friends and we can help show them the way with a little preparation.

You can contact Lilian directly for advice by email: or by visiting her web site

Family Dog Training Professional

Lilian Akin, 3510 Gerber Avenue • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212
412.732.8091 CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA got her start training dogs by volunteering at shelters. She has worked, volunteered and/or taught classes in all three of the major Pittsburgh shelters, Animal Friends, the Western Pa. Humane Society, and the Animal Rescue League. She started out by working with shelter dogs under the guidance of volunteer trainers.


December 14, 2023
December 14, 2023


December 14, 2023