Dog trainer Mel Ritterman explains how to prepare your dog for when your baby starts to crawl.

Mum and qualified dog trainer Mel Ritterman of Cooper and Kids answers parents’ questions about their pets and children. First up, is a question from Kirsty.

“I would love to hear about some good ways to prepare dog and baby for baby starting to move. We have a 4 month old bub, Bella and our small 20 month old fur baby Myla is a Kelpie x Sausage Dog. The dog has been really well behaved and accepting of our new addition. I just want to make sure I am setting good framework for the next stage. I am currently putting the baby on a mat for tummy time and encouraging pup to be part of this by playing with her own toys or doing some of the commands she knows for treats. I am not sure though how to reinforce the need to be gentle as I know the dog really wants to play with her baby sister.”

A big thanks to Kirsty for this question, this is one that I get a lot and is very important when raising a new child with a dog.

Image: Supplied

First off, well done for wanting to be so prepared. You are definitely doing the right thing by both Bella and Myla. Living with a baby and dog together can be so much fun and so rewarding, but it can also come with plenty of challenges.

Get your dog used to being touched – everywhere!

Baby’s and kids (just like puppies) are curious beings and like to explore with touch and feel. This means that Myla could be in the firing line to some roaming baby fingers pretty soon, if not already. Once she starts crawling and pulling herself up on things, this can become quite an intimidating and frightening stage for your dog. So, let’s try and prepare Myla for some of this.


You need to start getting her used to being poked and prodded everywhere. Once Bela is asleep, sit down with Myla every night and give her a rub down. Massage her, making it a nice experience but also poke and pull her along the way, touching every part of her body, paw pads, tail, inside the ears, mouth, nose, bum, everywhere. If she’s a little anxious or uncomfortable with it, have some treats on you so you can reward her when she is calm and relaxed.

This is also going to help you down the track when taking Myla to the vet as she will be more used to being touched all over. Win win!

Image: Tom Judson photography

Make sure your dog understands the boundaries around your baby.

What you are doing with mat time, sounds perfect. Keep at it and make sure to constantly be rewarding Myla’s calm behaviour when around Bella. If Myla is quite excitable around Bella, it is a good idea to create an invisible boundary around the baby.

Myla, should not get too close to Bella, unless you give her permission. This may involve having Myla on the lead initially so you can give her a little tug on the lead and verbal “ah ah” if she is getting too close and too excitable.

When she is relaxed and at a distance from Bella, give her praise. If an invisible boundary is not enough, a play pen can also be used for either of them. When my daughter was just on the move, I got her a big play pen and put some of her favourite toys in there. It just meant that I could separate them if I needed to.

Make sure your dog has a ‘safe’ place.

You also need to ensure that your dog, Myla has an escape route, somewhere to feel safe if she needs it. That way, if she is feeling uncomfortable at any stage, she can take herself outside or into a room, where the baby can’t get in.

It’s one thing I’ve always said about my dog Cooper. My kids are obsessed with him and he’s incredible with them. But they are now just old enough to know that if he moves away, they must leave him, it’s his sign that he’s had enough.

At our house, we have a doggy door, so Cooper often puts himself outside when he’s had enough. However, at Bella’s age, she’s too little to understand that, so it’s up to you to ensure that Myla is safe. Make sure that Bella doesn’t back her into a corner where she can’t escape. As this is often when dog bites occur.


As soon as your child is interested in your dog, start educating her about the boundaries around your dog.

I know you might be thinking that this is silly as your child is too young to understand, but I can’t stress how important it is to start educating your kids as early as possible about how to interact with your dog.

Teach Bella that she can’t play with the dog’s food or water bowls. Teach her not to watch the dog eat and not to take the dogs food out of her bowl. Teach her not to pull thing out of Myla’s mouth. Not to climb on the dog. Not to ride Myla (yes Paxton tried riding Cooper this morning, but I got to him in time). Not to pull her hair, ears, tail, etc.

Setting these rules from the very beginning is SO important. Even if you think your dog won’t react, you never know, especially if one day Bella creeps up to Myla while she’s asleep. Plus, these are great skills and boundaries to learn when dealing with other people’s dogs that may not be as friendly as your own.

Never leave your dog and child alone together.

In saying this, all it takes is one second for you to turn your back and something to happen. Myla might be eating or sleeping and Bella may step on her tail by mistake… whatever it may be, please be careful, don’t take risks, never leave your dog and baby/kids unattended together.

Kirsty, I hope this has answered your question… Good luck! Please get in touch if there is something else I can help you with. I would love to hear how you go. So please keep us up to date with your progress. Although, I’m sure Myla will do great.

Please feel free to comment below with your questions or get in touch via email . I would love for you to send me through 3-4 questions you may have about your kids/babies/mumlife/dogs and if you get lucky, I will feature your questions in a blog post on my website!