Dog owners are perfectly entitled to hope that the relationship shared between their dog and children is like the one depicted in movies like Marley and Me. However, in order to establish that level of comfort and affection, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes effort which needs to be made by both the parties- the dogs and the children.

Psychologists say that children who grow up with pets, particularly dogs, are likely to be more empathetic and compassionate and less anxious or stressed. Nevertheless, in order for the children and dogs to develop a working relationship, as dog owners and parents, it is you, who must act as the mediator.

Here are some steps you can take to introduce your dogs to children:

Initial Interactions: First times are a big deal for your dog and the child. Make sure both parties are comfortable and that they are calm and in a generally good mood.

Treats: The best way to train a dog is through treats. So, how about letting the child feed your dog treats from time to time, so that he knows that the child comes as a friend. If your child is older, say around six or seven years of age, let them replenish the dog bowls.

Physical Contact:  Always ensure that you’re present while your dog is interacting with children. You know your dog best, and so you need to make sure that your dog will not harm the child or vice versa. Teach children to gently pet the dog’s head and neck. Tend to avoid sensitive spots such as ears or tail, initially.

Toys: If you have a toddler, teach your dog that some of the toys aren’t his, and that he is to never play with them. This will prevent your child from contracting diseases. Remember to praise and reward your dog for following the rules. This will enable your dog to understand boundaries better.

Grooming: Allow older children to pet and play with your dog. Let them walk the dog, brush his hair and serve him dinner. This way, both, the children and the dogs can build a long lasting friendship.

Tricks: Teach your dog, tricks, while your child is around. Encourage your child to do so as well. This helps increase their comfort level with each other

Building a lasting friendship is a two-way stream. So it is important that its not only your dog, but also the children who make some sacrifices and adjustments in order to get along with each other. Here are some tips to help children get better acquainted with dogs:

Not a toy: Teach children that dogs are living creatures, just like us. They feel pain and emotions, just as we do, but cannot communicate that to us in a way we can understand. Children must be made aware of the fact that dogs are not toys. Playmates, yes; but toys, no! Teach kids to never push, poke or tease dogs as they may retaliate violently and bite or scratch you.

Dog-proofing your home: If you have a baby on the way, you need to mentally and emotionally prepare your dog for the changes to come. Start slow, by not allowing your dog to enter the baby room. Leave your dog alone for a while so that he gets adjusted to you not being around, while you’re devoting yourself to your baby. Bring home some baby clothes so that he gets accustomed to the baby’s scent. This way, he can gradually prepare to adapt to the new-born.

Dog Psyche: Teach children about the body language of dogs so they are able to gauge whether the dog is being friendly towards them or not. Develop the habit of asking the owner’s permission before petting the dog. If the dog does not reciprocate, tell them that it’s not the child’s fault, but it’s the dog who does not wish to interact at the given moment.

Follow these easy steps, and sit back and watch as a beautiful friendship unfolds before you. For you know, they don’t say “A dog is a man’s best friend.” for nothing.