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Toddlers & Dogs Additional Resources

Raising toddlers and dogs together can be safe and wonderful for both, IF you are an alert and consistent parent!

No matter how carefully you've taught the baby to "pet the puppy nice" NEVER trust your young child alone with your dog or puppy, EVER. No matter how gentle or well-trained you think your child is, when you're not looking, the child is wanting to do all of the things you won't let him do when you're around!

Pro-active Safety Measures

Supervision, SUPER-vision, Super-VISION!
If you see the baby closing in on the unsuspecting dog, intercept him! Cornered dogs have no other choice but to tell the child to go away the only way they know how. Help them out of the situation before they have to.

Surprise is one of the biggest reasons dogs spin and snap. A sudden reach, an impulsive hug, a handful of fur clenched tightly in a baby's fist or twisted lip or ear. Babies lose their balance and fall. You have to be there to catch them before they land on the sleeping dog!

Think of a dog as a pair of pointy scissors. If you leave the room, take the kid or the dog with you or put it in its crate, exercise pen, kitchen behind a baby gate or some other place where he can't leave and the kids can't go.

Teach the child to respect the dog's space
Interrupt and redirect if the dog uses the kids for a jungle gym or the kids treat the dog like a stuffed animal. No pony rides ever! Teach your children from day one that the dog is not a toy. Children should never approach a sleeping dog, an eating dog, a dog with a toy or chewie, a dog who is tired, a dog who isn't feeling well, a dog who is worried or excited, a dog who has had enough petting for one millenium. Watch the kids and the puppy to make sure neither are acting inappropriately and that they are respecting each other's space. If not, then they lose the privilege of being together. Time-outs are as effective with puppies as they are with children.

Be aware of how the DOG is feeling
You want your dog to adore the baby, respect the baby, maybe even protect the baby. But their relationship is a two-way street. Make sure that both are enjoying every interaction. If they aren't, it's your job to step in.

Safe Haven
If you have small children or someone else's kids come to visit, create a safe place for your dog. Use a baby gate or something that the dog can get over or through that the child cannot. When the dog does not want to be bothered by the child, show him he can escape to his safe place, and everything will be fine.

Never put the dog in the position of needing to correct the kids.

Your dog deserves respect and peace and quiet. Kids don't appreciate being pestered constantly by their siblings and neither does your dog. When, day after day, the polite signals are ignored, the puppy eventually gives them up as useless and just goes straight to what works - snarl-snap and, if necessary, bite. 77% of all bites to children are to the face - probably because that's the part of the body that is invading and hugging and kissing and because a muzzle pin (open mouth across the offending pup's face) is how adult dogs correct invasive puppies. Your dog views small kids as pesky puppies.

Turn your back for even a moment,
and your child will be a child --
and your dog will be a dog!

If the dog is not able to get away from the thing that annoys or terrifies him, remember that "Plan B" is to try to get that thing away from HIM. The dog communicates that he wants to be left alone by looking away, moving away, showing his teeth and growling, all of which are proper social signals to avoid REAL aggression: biting. However, children are not dogs, and do not understand or heed this language, so it's important to BE THERE to intervene and give the dog a place to go where the child absolutely cannot follow. Again, this is where parenting and supervision are crucial to keep dog and child safe!

Individual breeds and individual dogs of the same breed have different temperaments and tolerance thresholds. Some are exceedingly patient and have a high pain tolerance and can put up with more abuse than others. Big, strong "dive into ice cold water without noticing" and "run through stickers and brambles without noticing" Labradors fall into this category ... but even these dogs have a limit and no dog should be forced to endure pain or torment in the name of being "good with kids." Well-socialized and trained dogs can be fine with gentle, respectful kids, but won't tolerate eternal pestering, hair pulling and "over-loving" that is typical of young kids and toddlers.

Teach the dog to respect the child's space
Body awareness can be taught. "Careful, easy, slow." A child can have a great time enjoying the company of a considerate and respectful dog.

Set the speed limit...the appropriate level of play. No jumping on the bed or banking off the couch. This is not road race 5000. All chase games, wresting games, and ball games are outside games.

Yield the right of way. Leaders go first through doors, down hallways and up and down stairs. Crashing into humans, large or small, is not allowed.

Enforce stop signs and no trespassing signs. There may be places in your house your dog is not allowed. He doesn't need free reign and it's a message to bossy dogs that you own places in the house that he is not invited to go, like on the dining room table or kitchen counter! This also extends to high chairs and peanut butter sandwiches clutched in tiny hands.

Provide a parking lot. A crate, a bed, a time-out and settle-down zone. Failure to follow the rules or exceeding the speed limit gets him sent to the parking garage immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

There may be special speed limits around school or hospital zones. Don't underestimate your dog's ability to understand the concept of "be careful around the baby" or "don't trip grandma" or even "watch your tail around the coffee table."

Remember... just because your dog likes grown-ups, doesn't mean he automatically loves children. If his early puppyhood didn't include kind and gentle children, he may see them as scary little screaming aliens.

If you are concerned about your child's safety, get professional help immediately.

The success of their relationship is up to you!

This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given.
© CAROL A. BYRNES, Diamonds in the Ruff - Training for Dogs & Their People

 


 

Dogs & Storks
The first national dog and baby program for new & expecting families

Dog Meet Baby
A CD filled with various baby sounds from blood-curdling screams to the cooing of an angel to help you desensitize your dog!