During this time of shelter-in-place, you’re spending a lot more time together as a family. Most of the extra time together is good, but there may be some negative consequences as new routines are being established. Recently I was informed of an incident involving a family dog biting a five year old child who crawled into the dog crate while the dog was sleeping. After hearing this, I thought it would be a good time to talk about how some of these new daily routines could impact your child and dog. Let’s help educate your child about making good decisions with the family dog, and avoid potentially bad incidents like a bite.
Children who are normally gone for many hours of the day, expending energy at school, are now spending their days at home. The routine for the dog is probably different too. They may not have as much time to rest as usual, and there is constant sound and movement in the house from family members. Some dogs may love the extra family around, but others may not.
All this extra togetherness just increases the likelihood of a potential incident happening. Supervision is always important when it comes to dogs and kids, but realistically you just can’t watch everything all the time. So what else can you do? Try taking some time to establish clear boundaries and rules with your children regarding your dog(s). Looking back on the incident with the young child mentioned earlier, it’s likely that the dog was startled while asleep and reacted. It could also be that the dog was protecting its space. It’s difficult to prevent all bad things from happening, but this is a good time to be proactive with basic child/dog safety tips.
If your child is old enough to have a conversation, go over some basic tips to help your child learn when to give space and undisturbed rest time to the dog. Space should always be given when a dog is eating and sleeping. Don’t assume your child knows all of the basics. If you need a simple child/dog safety tool that covers many of the basic tips, the Stop, Look & Paws sticker set, that was designed for parents to use with children, can be a big help. It’s also something fun for your child, because they get to sort 12 reusable dog stickers into safe-to-pet or not-safe-to-pet sections on a game board.
Now that you have successfully introduced the baby and dog, it is time to build a bond between the two!
Babies and Dogs Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship
Building a Bond Between Baby and DogNow that you’ve reviewed Parts 1 through 3, let’s finish with how you can help create a beautiful bond between your baby and dog. You will need to help your dog understand that this new little person, who is demanding all of your attention is actually going to stay and is part of the family or pack (as your dog sees it)! Overall, be sure to do some of the activities your dog enjoys every day, and importantly, include the baby. For example, a dog walk with the baby stroller is an excellent activity. The dog sees everyone walking as a pack unit, with the baby in the lead. Plus, walking is very healthy for everyone! If you play games like fetch, the baby can be present as you are playing with the dog. Also, if you play indoor scent games like searching for hidden dog treats, your baby can be present for this as well. Try to find as many things as possible that you can still do where your dog sees that the baby is included. Of note, even practicing the basic commands your dog knows, followed by praise and a treat, while your baby is in your arms, makes the dog see the baby as part of the interaction and training. In the eyes of the dog, “Good things happen when the baby is present!” Two final precautionary thoughts – 1. If you think your dog is showing signs of jealously, please contact a professional trainer to help you. It is usually a situation that can be helped by having the owner make changes in the way they are relating to the dog. 2. Most important, because things can happen in a split second, always supervise your dog and baby when they are together! It is a wonderful experience for a child to grow up with a dog. Learning to have compassion and understanding of a different species starts with you, and how you model respect and kindness to your canine family member. Enjoy your new family! Lesley Zoromski Kids-n-K9s.com
Life can get very busy especially when you have both children and dogs. Helping your dog to really learn and understand commands can help you tremendously. Once your dog knows the commands, you are half way there. Now, you need to know the best ways to use them in your daily life. Remember, if you don’t have the time for a group class, hire a private trainer or find a reputable Board and Train facility!
Babies and Dogs – Creating a Safe and Harmonious Relationship Part 2 Commands to Make Life EasierNow that you’ve gotten your dog familiar with baby “gear” and basic house manners that we discussed in Part 1 of this blog, the next thing you want to do is sharpen up your basic commands. In this section we will outline which commands are most useful to incorporate into your daily life with your new baby. Commands are “icing on the cake”, because if your dog has good manners as discussed in Part 1, then adding commands opens up communication. However, teaching commands isn’t a “magic fix” … just because your dog knows what a particular command means, doesn’t mean they will do what you ask. Follow through after you give a command is by far the most important part of the communication and that is all on you! Here are the commands to have your dog learn: • Come • Stay • Go to your spot & Stay in your spot • Stay out • Get back • Wait • Sit & Down • Leave it & Give it • Off Now let’s talk about how to use some of these commands and how they relate to your baby. Sharpen up “come” command. The last thing you need when you are trying to do so many additional things in a busy household or rush off to an appointment is to have your dog ignoring you when you are calling them to come to you. This is a super important command to reward so be sure you praise/or treat your dog consistently each time they reach you. Practice calling them to “come” every time you’re calling your dog for their meal. That is always positive for a dog! A good solid “stay”, can be so valuable in many areas of your life with the dog especially when you are answering a door or carrying the baby from one room to the next. You don’t want a dog getting under foot. Practice teaching your dog to go to their bed. This is the “go to your spot” and “stay in your spot” command. The goal is to have them stay until you return to release them. Practice in advance so you are prepared for when the baby first arrives. If you haven’t perfected the solid stay with distractions, putting them on leash, or tethering them to a solid object can help. If your dog is crate trained, using a crate is another good option to control your dog when people arrive at your home, or use a baby gate to control their access to rooms. “Stay out” can be used at the door of the baby’s room. Your dog will be happy to watch things from the doorway. If in the future you decide your dog is calm enough to come in, you can always allow it later. If this is initially difficult to do, use a baby gate at the doorway. Your dog can see what is happening but stay at a distance. If your dog decides not to “stay out”, you can use “get back” to help them stay out of baby’s room, and learn that it’s off limits. If they “get back” and then “stay out”, they won’t get into the diaper pail, which for one of my dogs is like going to a 5 Star restaurant! “Get back” is also good to use if your dog is crowding you and not giving you space when sitting with the baby. Then you can ask for a “down” next to you so they can be close, but not too demanding with your space. “Wait” is just a good command to use to teach your dog they have to wait for things. It may be for dinner, leaving their crate, or going out the door for a walk. It helps to teach a dog how to have discipline. It can also help keep things calm, and calmness around a baby is a good thing! “Sit or down” can be used to help make a dog calmer for petting, but this is only if they know how to hold this without you repeating yourself over and over again. You want to say it once; they sit and stay in place until released followed by lots of praise!! If your dog stands calmly to be petted, they don’t even need the sit. The most important thing is that they know how to stay calm in the presence of the baby. “Leave it” can be used if you or the baby drops something. A quick sniff and investigation by your dog is OK. This also can be very useful if your dog likes to take toys or articles of clothing. You don’t want to create a game of “keep away”, but if it happens anyway, you’ll want to teach “give it”. One way I use the “off” command is to have a designated baby blanket on the floor that dogs are not allowed on. This gives the baby a chance to have some tummy time, and allows the dog to be a part of it without being in the middle of it. Of course “off” is good for a dog that jumps on people or objects. Basically, the command means get your feet off of what they are touching. If you don’t have these commands mastered, use your leash and collar to help show your dog. Dogs have unique personalities, including levels of excitement and curiosity. You will have to judge how much guidance or training you need to do with your dog. If you’re unsure, as many new parents/dog owners are, hire a professional to help you! Your goal should be to maintain calmness and control with your dog. Remember this is all new to them, so it is important to teach them your expectations for their behavior. I like dogs to see what is happening with the baby, but initially keep at a distance until I can see how they are reacting, and they get more familiar and comfortable with the new baby. That’s all for Part 2 of the blog post. Part 3 is all about “the meet and greet”. I will make suggestions for your dog getting close to the baby to be sure things are safe and pleasant. Lesley Zoromski Kids-n-K9s.com
There are many things you can do to prepare for the arrival of your new baby when it comes to the family dog.
The arrival of a new baby is a very exciting time! So how can you be sure you will have a safe and harmonious home for your new baby? Whether the baby is a new family member or just coming for a visit, it’s important to take some time to help your dog understand this new little person, and how they are different from adults.
Because there is a lot to think about, I’m going to break this post into four separate parts:
Part 1: Getting Used to Baby “Gear” and Learning Manners
Part 2: Commands to Make Life Easier
Part 3: The Meet and Greet
Part 4: Creating a Bond Between Baby and Dog
Getting Used to Baby “Gear” and Learning Manners
We all can agree that babies are very different from adults. They smell different, move different, sound different and have different “gear”. Adults are typically comfortable with these differences, but for dogs they can be quite alien.
All dogs have unique personalities. Some are easy going, others are pushy, but sweet, and yet some are nervous and jumpy with new things. You most likely know how your dog will react to new things, but it’s best to not have any surprises. The good news is there’s a lot you can do in advance of the baby’s arrival to help your dog understand how to handle some of changes that are coming.
For, example, a baby comes with lots of “gear”, like strollers, playpens, swings, diaper pails and baby toys. One simple idea to help your dog is to walk them with the stroller, with your dog next to you, and the stroller in front. This will help you be sure your dog is ok with this new addition of a stroller on the walk, and also that you can handle holding the leash while you have both hands on the stroller. It’s a good idea to practice this before the baby is a passenger! Note you want to have the stroller in front so your dog realizes the baby is an important member of the pack.
Another idea to help your dog is to use other baby “gear” inside the house. For example, you can use your indoor baby swing, just like there was a baby sitting it, so your dog gets familiar with this new moving object. You will likely see your dog sniffing these new things as they investigate, but be sure they don’t grab any of them with their teeth as they may wonder if any of these things are new toys for them!
Ok, now that we’ve covered a little bit about baby “gear”, lets move on to basic house manners that will help set the stage for your dog being polite when the baby is around. When I say basic house manners, I’m referring to the following behaviors:
- NOT jumping on people or objects
- NOT taking food from tables or people
- NOT crowding or begging
- NOT pulling on leash
These are some of the basic manners your dog should exhibit before the baby arrives. There will be a lot going on with the new baby, and these behaviors will go a long way to having a more comfortable and safe home for everyone. If you don’t know how to teach your dog these basic house manners, just contact a trainer to help you.
On the topic of manners, I’m often asked if couch privileges should be allowed. Letting dogs lay on a couch or bed is quite a gray area….it depends on your dog. Does your dog object if you or any person asks him to get off? Behaviors like growling, snapping, or giving you a fixed stare would indicate you should not give the dog couch privileges. In my personal experiences with my own dogs, I’ve found that not allowing them on beds and couches has provided me with a dog free area for guests (including babies!) in my home.
So, anything you can do before the baby arrives to help prepare your dog is a good thing – whether it’s being exposed to baby “gear” or brushing up on basic manners in the house. In my next post, I will talk about basic commands to help make communication easier, and life all around more pleasant, with your new baby and dog.
For a quiet activity for kids to do with the dog – try reading!
There are many beneficial reasons why dog therapy groups have been created for children to read to dogs. These organizations, like Paws for Reading and Paws for Healing, go into schools, libraries and hospitals just to provide a dog so a child can sit quietly and read a book. Children are usually less shy to read to a dog because they realize that dogs don’t mind if they misread a word. Although therapy dogs are chosen for a calm temperament and go through training to be prepared for visits, your dog can do this at home with your child and it will benefit both.
It is easy to get a dog excited and wound up, but it is more important to teach a dog how to stay calm. This is because most incidences of bites or scratches happen when dogs are in an excited state. Because they are pack animals dogs like to be with us no matter what activity we are doing.
Try this activity of having your child read to the family dog. This is something that is not only good for your child, but the dog will benefit from the close proximity and the calm state of mind from the child. You may have to start with the dog on a leash and sitting quietly next to your child as he/she reads a book. It is good to have times that the child and dog are close together but the direct focus is not on the dog. Soon they will both understand what is to be done during this activity and no leash will be needed.
If you are reading the book and your child is looking at pictures and listening to the story this is just as good. This is also a good time to teach your child how to calmly pet the dog as they both relax and listen to the story. Many people including adults pet a dog with fast hand movements. This will again, get at dog more excited. Try having your child slowly count as they pet the dog’s entire back. It might be fun to make a game out of counting slowly. Try this: “one good dog, two good dogs, three good dogs…” and so on. I bet they can get to “five good dogs”! See my next blog for more active games for children to play with dogs.