8 Ways to Foster a Good Relationship Between Your Kids and Your Pet

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GigglesandWigges #CollectiveBias Because of my partnership with Gerber, my little one is ineligible to win the Gerber Photo Search or a weekly prize, but you may be eligible so make sure you submit a photo of your baby and/or pet!

A lot of you know our dog Howie. He is a four and a half year old Shorkie (Shih Tzu/Yorkie) and the sweetest puppy anyone could ever ask for. Howie joined our family two years before any kids came along. He was used to a calm, quiet environment where he had the freedom to enjoy life wherever he pleased. These days he shares attention and living space with two little ones who are anything but calm and quiet. As our little family has grown, it has been our goal to build a happy and safe relationship between our kids and our dog. We know that they will all be the best of friends if we do our part to teach them how to interact well with each other while they're still young. Two and a half years into this parenting thing, we've learned a few important lessons for fostering that healthy, happy relationship.

Prepare Your Puppy for Change

When I was pregnant with Emmy, we did everything that we could to prepare Bensen to become a big brother. We talked often about the exciting changes that would be happening, what that meant for him and how he could help. Talking to him often about the new baby helped Bensen to prepare for those changes and recognize that we still loved him very much, even though the amount of attention we'd be able to give him was about to change.

With Howie, it wasn't that easy. With both pregnancies, he knew that change was coming, but he didn't understand what until we brought the baby home. We wanted him to feel like he was still an important part of our home and was not being replaced. We did everything that we possibly could to make that transition easy on him.

Encourage Interaction

From the day we brought our babies home from the hospital, we have let Howie be near the kids. We supervised the interactions closely, but there was never any trouble. Howie was used to cuddling on the couch with us while we watched movies, and hanging out wherever we were. We didn't want him to feel like he was no longer welcome to be near us if there was a baby around. It was fun to watch his concern whenever one of the babies would make a noise and how he would position himself to watch over them as they napped. As each child grew and became mobile, Howie got more excited. He'd sit near them on blankets, bring his toys over to ask them to play and they were always the first to get his attention when we got home from an outing. 

Teach the Kids How to Play

Joe and I both spend time playing with Howie on a daily basis. He likes to play tug-a-war and he loves it when someone will throw his toys for him. We will often get Bensen and Emmy to join us and show them the way that Howie likes to play. I love to watch Emmy pull one of Howie's toys out of the box and take it to wherever he's laying to get him to come and play with her. She's been known to bring every single toy to him until she finds the one that interests him in playing with her. Howie will also bring toys to Emmy and squeak them up against her leg so that she'll play with him. It's been fun to see Howie recognize that the kids are his friends and can be a lot of fun.

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Teach the Baby to be Soft

As soon as Bensen and Emmy started to show interest in playing with Howie, we started teaching them how to be soft with him. There is always something new to work on. Emmy has mastered petting him softly but is working on not smacking him in the face with his toys when she wants him to play. Bensen knows how to play soft but needs a little reminding when he and Howie start having too much fun and things get a little rough. There are some days when I get to play referee and break up fights because someone took the other person's toy and they're fighting over it, but for the most part, they all get along.

Give the Dog a Safe Space

Howie is still a puppy in a lot of ways, but unlike when he was a couple of years younger, he likes a good balance of play and rest. On the other hand, Bensen and Emmy seem to gain more energy as they play. When the dog gets tired or sick of playing, we like to let him have some peace so that he can rest. Most times we encourage Howie go sit in his favorite spot on top of the couch and watch out the window while the kids continue to play in the other room. Other times you'll find him asleep underneath our bed, in the very center, so that nobody can reach him. And he'll often go hang out in the backyard when things get too crazy inside the house. 

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Include Everyone in Family Outings

We have a goodbye routine whenever we leave the house and Howie doesn't get to come with us. He gets a treat, we tell him "goodbye" (if you don't, he cries when you leave, legitimately cries) and make sure that he has water and that his door to the backyard isn't shut. When we come home, we always find him sitting in the front window, waiting for us to come home. He greets us with so much enthusiasm and brings one of his favorite toys with him in hopes that we'll start playing the minute we walk in the door. But he loves his life even more if he gets to come on outings with us. We take the entire family on picnics to the park, we go for walks around the neighborhood, we'll all play together in the backyard, and sometimes we'll go on a long drive. It's the greatest day in Howie's life when he gets to join us in our family fun!

Know When to Separate the Kids and the Dog

I mentioned that we make sure Howie gets a break from the kids and feels safe in our home. There are a lot of times when everyone is playing and things get a little too exciting. The kids get carried away and Howie's having fun playing, but you can tell that things are getting a little wild. That's when I pack everyone up to go on a walk, we'll leave Howie in one room with the toys he was playing with while the kids and I start another activity somewhere else, or I'll send Howie outside while Bensen and I clean up what they were playing with. We work really hard to teach our kids how to interact nicely with the dog, but they are young and sometimes don't recognize his limits.

Let the Kids Help

We started having Bensen help us feed Howie a while back and now it is his favorite thing to do. He loves to get in the pantry, scoop up the dog food and carry it carefully over to dump it in Howie's dish. He likes to give Howie his treats and help hold his leash on our walks as well. We love to include the kids in taking care of the dog for multiple reasons. 1 - they learn responsibility and how to take care of someone other than themselves. We make sure that Howie has food before we sit down at the table for our meals and find a way to include him in our activities throughout the day. Howie recognizes the kids as people who care for him and help to provide his basic needs and the kids learn to love the dog more when they help with his daily routines.

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This year is the 8th annual Gerber® Baby Photo Search and it has a fun component that makes it more relevant to today's parents. The photo search begins 9/13/17 and ends on 10/27/17. People may enter by posting a photo of their child on Instagram (must be a public account). There are two different competitions you can enter!

Gerber's Photo Search

  • You may enter by posting a photo of your child on Instagram (must be a public account) using the hashtag #GerberPhotoSearch2017
  • Photo search begins 9/13/17 and ends 10/27/17
  • You can enter up to 10 times
  • Grand prize is $50,000 -- can be used toward child's education

Giggles and Wiggles Purina/Gerber Photo Search

  • Additionally there are (6) weekly winners of Giggles and Wiggles prize packs, one winner chosen by judges each week of the photo search.
  • A qualifying entry for the Giggles and Wiggles Photo Search would be a photo of both pet and baby.
  • These entries should use both #GerberPhotoSearch2017 and #GerberGigglesandWiggles
  • Each weekly winner will receive $500 cash prize pack, a one year supply of Gerber baby food (valued at $600) and a one year supply of Purina pet food (valued at $540).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) and Puerto Rico, who are 18 years of age or older, have a valid Instagram account and/or email address, and are parents of a child 48 months of age or younger and meet certain background check requirements. Enter search by: 11:59:59pm ET on 10/27/17. For Official Rules, including eligibility and entry requirements, judging criteria and prize descriptions, visit www.Gerber.com/photosearch2017/rules. Void where prohibited.

We purchase our Gerber® and Purina® ONE® products at Target, taking care of all of our pet and baby needs in one trip!

Gerber® snacks are a go to at our house and can be found often in our pantry and diaper bag. Both Bensen and Emmy enjoy them and we have yet to find a Gerber® snack that they don't like. Gerber® snacks contain real ingredients and no preservatives. Have questions? Head to MyGerber.com to meet Dorothy, your on-call personal baby expert, or call naytime 24/7 at 1-800-284-9488.

Purina® ONE® has been a staple in our home as well, from the time Howie joined us. Purina ONES's Smartblend of ingredients means complete and balanced nutrition that can support your dog's well being at every life stage -- and real meat is always #1. There are no added artificial flavors or preservatives.

I love hearing Bensen ask Howie if he wants to come outside and play with him. It makes me smile when Emmy squeals because she notices Howie sitting on the couch next to where she's playing. Our kids have a pet they can love, take care of and play with. They've learned to share their toys, be gentle when playing, and care for another living creature. I'm grateful that we made a decision from the beginning to do our part to help build that health relationship between our kids and our dog rather than keeping them separated or letting the kids force us to get rid of our pet who we care for a lot.

Your pets and your children can be the best of friends for life, if you make an effort to help them build a good relationship from the beginning.