More and more families are waiting to have children, and often their dog is considered to be their furry first-born.
When a baby comes into the picture, the family dog often finds himself shunted to one side. Walks are curtailed and the family’s attention is eaten up by a wailing, squirming little creature who looks nothing like a normal human being.
Some dogs adjust easily, and some adjust with difficulty.
Some families are forced to find new homes for their beloved pets, when the dog’s behavior problems or aggression pose a true threat to the infant. Very rarely, a tragedy occurs.
There is no such thing as a dog who is completely safe with a baby.
First and foremost, we must remember that dogs are predators. Every dog has the potential to hurt people. Babies and children are at the greatest risk. The small size, helplessness, and high pitched noises of a young infant can excite predatory behaviors in dogs who have never shown aggression with people before.
As the child grows, he or she may become increasingly rough with the dog.
Just yesterday I caught my own toddler trying to use our dog as a stepping stool, while the poor dog looked at me imploringly.
Children tend to grab, maul, and move in startling ways, all of which can hurt or frighten a normally placid dog into biting.
When socialized and handled correctly, however, no dog need pose a threat to the humans around it.
- Socialize your dog to humans of all ages, from newborn to old age. It is best to do this when your dog is still a puppy, but a dog can benefit from socialization at any age.
- Get your dog accustomed to being mauled about in rough and child-like ways. Your dog should learn to tolerate having her ears pulled, her fur tugged, her eyes poked, and her toes stepped on.
- Never leave a dog alone with a young child, and teach older children how to handle dogs safely.
Wag The Dog is dedicated to helping families co-exist peacefully with their pets. That is why we offer a special baby-proofing package to help expectant families prepare their dog – and themselves – for a new baby’s arrival.
With a bit of work and preparedness, your newest addition to the family can be a joy to the whole family.
In fact, Wag The Dog can not only help your dog prepare for a life as big brother or sister, but we can teach him or her to help you out:
- Fetching diapers
- Alerting you when the baby cries
- Opening and closing fridge and cupboard doors
- Retrieving dropped items
To learn more about our Dog Meets Baby training package, check out our Rates and Packages page, or contact us:
–Carol Millman is a Registered AHT with a science degree in Psychology. She has worked both in veterinary clinics and as a trainer of assistance dogs.