Preparing Your Dog for a Human Baby
Recently I had a client ask for advice on getting their dog ready for a new baby!
I get this question fairly frequently and thought this would be a great time for a new baby/dog tutorial.
I have a whole new perspective on babies and dogs because I have worked in the dog training field for so long.
And let me say here first most of these “adorable” photos I am sharing scare me! A cute photo op, is not worth a scar that will last a lifetime or a moment that may kill your child.
Fortunately or unfortunately I see the worst of the worst.
I deal with the dogs and clients whose children get mauled by their or someone else’s dog.
I suppose this taints my feeling on introducing dogs to children and babies; yet people with dogs have babies all of the time!
So let’s work together to make it as easy, and safe as possible!
This means to share this article with the people you know and love to help educate them and keep both dog and child safe and happy.
Let’s Be Honest
First let’s be honest with one another; not all dogs love babies.
Some dogs are terrified of babies.
Some dogs are jealous of babies.
Some are possessive aggressive with children.
Some dogs are territorial with babies and children.
And, some dogs think babies are prey (very scary).
None of these present for a safe much less a situation.
And, a lot of parents are simply in denial or don’t recognize the tell tale signs of aggression toward their children.
I often hear
“My dog growls at the baby, but he’d never hurt him”
“My dog only snaps at the baby when he/she hurts him (meaning the child is allowed to grab or hurt the dog) but the dog would never bite the baby”
Ummmm…. A Growl is a Warning
A growl or a snap is a warning that should not be ignored, and in my opinion a child should never be allowed to be close enough to hurt a dog, or a dog close enough to snap at the child.
Please click this link and watch this video and read this article for more information on Teaching Your Children to be Kind and Mindful of Dogs and Educating Others. The video and article sum up a lot of information for you!
If this process of “disliking” the child continues the dog will grow up having hostile feelings toward the child that run deep.
Just photos of babies laying on dogs scares the crap out of me, what if the dog decides he doesn’t want the baby there?
If a dog didn’t want another dog laying on him, he would nip the other dog… the honest truth is dogs do this to children all the time. And, it is difficult for most people to see the signs. And let’s face it some are in serious denial that the dog that they love doesn’t like the child that they love.
I prefer to keep them separate and teach the dog that the baby is cool to have around!
So What Can You Do?
Before The Baby Comes Home
And, he needs to have a great sit and down stay.
As well as great leash manners!
After all… no one wants to be pregnant with a wild dog in the house.
Even if you do survive your pregnancy how is this going to work when you have an infant in your arms?
2nd Get Your Dog Used to Children; Safely!
Most people who are having children have friends or family that HAVE babies or children.
Socializing your dog with good children and babies is the first step.
If you have a nephew or niece that is a terror; avoid that situation for your dog. There is no need to make your dog more fearful or apprehensive than they have to be!
Find good children that have good manners and monitor the behavior of both while they are interacting!
Keep your dog on a leash so that all interaction is next to you.
This ensures that you can see your dog’s reaction
This also ensures that you can see how the child is treating your dog (even good kids try to ride dogs and sometimes treat them inappropriately).
Reward your dog heavily for good behavior (but be sure to make sure that your dog has no possession issues with food first).
I don’t force my dog to interact with my family or friend’s kids; instead I make my dog lay down next to me and I reward for good behavior.
So if you read that, I reward for squishy face, not dilated pupils or signs of stress or fear or staring (staring is almost never good). I also look at the tail of my dog and reward for happy wagging, not dominant wagging or a tucked tail. For more on reading the Tail tells the Tale, click here.
By associating children with control (yes dogs do like you to be in control and enjoy obedience) and good things your dog learns to not fear children, while learning how to behave around them.
Wouldn’t you like to have your dog lay on your feet or next to you while you have your new infant out?
The more you socialize and teach your dog how to behave the better your dog will handle the situation when your new baby arrives.
Right Before Your Baby Comes Home
Bring a baby blanket home from the hospital so your dog can get used to the smell of your baby without having to get up in your baby’s face. I don’t recommend ever dipping the baby down so the dog can get into his or her face, this is dangerous for a number of reasons and teaches your dog that jumping up and getting into children’s faces is good. Sniffing the baby from a distance and from his/her bottom is more than enough for your dog.
And, make sure someone is spending extra time with your dog. Hire a dog walker, have family take your dog for a long walk so that your dog’s opinion of the baby and all the new smells is not rife with stress.
All the socialization in the world with other people’s kids is nothing like bringing your own baby home full time.
When Your Baby Comes Home
Make sure that your dog is still getting special attention.
Remember that before you got pregnant and had your human baby, your dog was probably your baby; and chances are he is mourning the loss of time with his best friend.
Spend time training and snuggling while the baby sleeps and make sure other members of the family do the same.
Jealousy creeps in when the dog is ignored and his whole life is turned upside down by the new baby.
When the baby is awake, make sure you all have fun time together. Carry treats and click your dog for laying down calmly with the baby in the room; and give the dog special treats and bones while the baby is safely in his own space (i.e. nowhere near the dog, you don’t want possession issues) but in the room.
I often give my dogs bones to chew on, on their bed, while company is over. My dog MUST lay on his bed, away from company, and yet company coming over is associated with great things. The same can be done with your dog and baby provided that everyone is in their own space and safe.
As Your Baby Grows
Teach your dog to go lay on his bed when you tell him to, this gets him out of the way of a toddler learning to toddle or teach him to go lay somewhere like a crate where the toddler can’t get to him. For more on teaching your dog Place click here.
Be sure to teach your toddler manners and be strict about chasing, grabbing at, or getting in your dog’s space.
Often we want to reprimand the dog, when it is the child who needs to be taught manners.
There need to be strict and specific punishments for being unkind to the dog or not listening to parents.
I never let toddlers pet my dogs… their tiny hands can grab fur and yank to a point where the dog feels there is no other way to get away than to bite.
Ever had a toddler grab your hair? YIKES!!!
And, they can’t see the signs and they might not let the dog go if he growls or struggles.
If I want a toddler to interact with my dog I take my dog’s tail or body and rub it against the toddler so that the toddler can’t grab my dog. Then of course I click and reward my dog for being so good!
Never, Ever, Ever
Never, ever, ever leave your dog alone with a child or toddler.
Put your dog outside, or in his crate if your child is wandering around; or teach the dog to always follow you around so that you are there to watch their interaction.
Do Some Dogs Get Along with Children Without All of This?
YES! I am amazed at some things that some dogs put up with, and scared by photos and stories all of the time.
But are you willing to take the chance that your dog might be the one to inflict a deadly bite?
I would rather teach control than take the risk any day!!!