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Parent to Parent • Jodie Lynn

Parent to Parent: How to stop toddler from hitting dog with toys

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Q •  What's the best way to help my 12-month-old stop hitting the dog with her toys? She thinks it's funny, but he doesn't like it at all. He's never tried to bite her, but I'm afraid that he might if she doesn't stop. It doesn't help matters when her dad starts laughing.

From a reader • When we had this problem with both of our children when they were young, we would use a spray bottle bought just for this situation and filled it with water and sprayed them gently in the face. It only took a couple of light sprays to make them stop. We would also take away whichever specific toy that they used to hit our dog or cat, at least for a few days. We didn't hit them for fear it would teach them more about hitting the pets. It didn't take long for them to figure out that they not only had the toy taken away but also that this was the only time they were sprayed. - Liz B. in New York City

From Jodie Lynn •  I don't have to tell you that when your husband laughs, it encourages your daughter to repeat the action.

In your case, she may be doing this just to get her dad to laugh, as opposed to actually being mean to the dog.

The challenge is that when our children laugh, especially when so young, we have a tendency to laugh along with them because they're so cute when they laugh out loud.

However, in training her not to hit the dog, or anything else for that matter, no matter how cute she can be you should refrain from laughing or smiling.

If your hubby cannot help himself, he will need to cover his smile and certainly not laugh where she can hear him.

In fact, it would be a good idea for him to perhaps leave the room.

I agree with the above advice; don't hit her or she will soon learn to connect hitting with other things and other situations.

The best remedy for unacceptable behavior is to distract her with something she likes by substituting the toy with music, a cloth book, singing, looking out the window, etc.

Also, when my kids were small, I would reserve the all familiar term, “No-no,” for emergency situations like running into the street or something else dangerous.

Instead, I'd say, “ta-ta,” which was quite popular in Louisiana, where we were living at the time. Basically, it means the same but not used as frequently as the other.

She'll eventually grow out of this stage. Until then, you could also buy all soft toys while you're teaching her that the dog is for loving and is a respected family member.


We have a toddler that we will be taking with us on our fall vacation in about three weeks. She doesn't do too well on airplanes, long rides in the car, in hotels or even in restaurants, all of which we will be doing. Do you have some tips that might help make our vacation a little easier with a toddler?


To share parenting tips or submit questions, write to: Parent to Parent, 2464 Taylor Road, Suite 131, Wildwood, MO 63040. Email:, or go to which provides a secure and easy way to submit tips or questions. All tips must have city, state and first and last name or initials to be included in the column.

Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.

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