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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

We have a 10-month-old. Is that too young to get a dog?

Q: My husband would like to get a dog. He wants our 10-month-old to grow up with it, but I think our son is still too young to get a pet. Is it too early to get a dog if your child is under the age of one?

A:  I am not sure there is a "best" time to get a dog. What I do know is that growing up with a pet can be an incredibly valuable and rich experience for a child. Having a dog teaches children about caring for another living being, and the dog often plays a very important role in a child's life—as an unconditional and always faithful friend.

But bringing a pooch into your family also carries tremendous responsibility. First and foremost, make sure the dog is child-friendly and gentle. Research which dogs are best for kids. Whether you're getting the dog from a breeder or shelter, visit it several times to gauge its temperament and to see how the dog reacts around both adults and kids. Bring your son with you, but hold him the whole time so he and the dog can become familiar.

After you bring your new furry family member home, you will need to provide very tight supervision—never leave the baby and dog alone! As your child grows, be very clear and firm in teaching him never to taunt or tease the dog, pull on its tail or ears, or antagonize it in any way. By following these guidelines, you will help your child develop a warm connection to his pet, which is a lifetime gift to both child and dog.

From "Your Child's Behavior," a column written by ZERO TO THREE in American Baby magazine.



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