Expecting parents who are also dog-lovers will be familiar with this worry. Infants and dogs have to be handled together with care. Even if you don't own a dog yourself, but plan on bringing your baby over to a dog-owning family member's house, there is still the possibility of danger.
Our dog friends are loyal companions, but their pack nature and determination to protect may spell danger for infants and even young children who aren't old enough to understand the dog's body language. Of course, some dogs are perfect companions for children, willing to put up with screaming and ear tugs with amazing patience. These dogs didn't get to be baby's best friend by accident, they were socialized, trained, and introduced to children with care.
Having a baby doesn't mean that your dog will be hopeless because they've never been around babies, it just means you have to teach them a new social skill. You can get your dog to live with your baby in harmony and these fifteen guidelines can help you get there.
15 Select Your Dog's Breed Carefully
While dog breed is no guarantee of any individual dog's temperament, it does give you good odds of ending up with a temperament you prefer. If you have time to plan ahead, you can select a friendly, easy going dog.
The American Kennel Club suggests some breeds that are likely to get along with children including: Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Newfoundland Dogs, Boxers, Beagles, and Bulldogs.
You should steer clear of dogs that make good watchdogs, as they tend to be stand-offish and attach themselves only to one member of a family instead of all members. Equally, dogs that have high energy needs and are easily bored may be a bad fit for a busy family.
Of course, all dogs breeds will produce dogs that get along well with children, we're just trying to boost your odds.
14 Mixed Breeds Aren't Reliable
Even if you plan on purchasing a common mixed breed dog, like a Goldendoodle or a Shih-tzu mix, know that the dog's traits are highly unpredictable compared to the traits of a purebred dog. A Goldendoodle may end up with the high-strung hunting instincts of a Poodle, when you thought you were getting the good-nature of the Golden.
In the case of a mixed breed you'll want to meet both of the parents of the dog, and observe their behavior around children. Of course, this is important for any prospective dog, but it is particularly essential for mixed breeds where you have few clues as to the dog's potential personality.
13 Choosing From A Litter
Be wary of breeders willing to reserve dogs before the eight week mark. A caring breeder will have personality information for prospective owners at eight weeks and will want to match their puppies with suitable owners.
My dog's breeder was able to tell me that two of his puppies seemed too relaxed and easy-going for me, they were ideal for families and children instead. He thought that another puppy was highly energetic and already quite smart, a good match for the hikes, hunting, and obedience trials I wanted my dog for.
I chose that dog and he now needs at least an hour of exercise a day, I can't imagine what would have happened if a busy family had chosen him before the breeder knew he would be so energetic!
12 Socialize Your Dog Properly
One of the key stages of a dog's social development can only be taught by the mother and the dog's siblings, so keep your puppy with their mother for at least eight weeks after their birth, ideally more.
Then, along with socializing your dog with other dogs, you need to introduce them to children. You should start with older children who understand when a dog is uncomfortable, so that they can back off if the puppy is overwhelmed or upset. Then introduce the dog to younger children who might pull their ears or be a little rough.
Be sure to bring treats and rewards for the dog, you want them to be happy around children. If a dog is often uncomfortable around these first children they meet, they may learn to avoid children and may snarl at any child who approaches.
11 Observe the Shelter's Suggestions
If you plan on rescuing your dog, you'll have no certainty about any of the above suggestions. The dog's breed, parents, socialization, and interactions with children may be a complete mystery to you and the shelter workers.
So, only adopt a dog if the shelter is certain that they have been around children before and not in an abusive context. A dog who has been abused will always remain somewhat unpredictable in terms of aggression, and therefore isn't a good fit for children.
10 The Shelter Trial Period
Take advantage of the trial period that your shelter offers by exposing your potential dog to children. Just like a puppy, introduce them to well-behaved children who are old enough to understand the dog first. Then try for the younger children and remain nearby to supervise at all times.
If the dog responds to the children with aggression or with fear it isn't the dog for you. This is one of the perks of a trial period. Although it might break your heart to take the dog back, you won't be stuck with an unpredictable pet you can;t trust with your children.
9 Plan to Have an Adult Dog When Your Baby Arrives
Raising puppies and infants are hard enough in isolation, never mind together. But there's another good reason to plan for your dog to be an adult, preferably over three, by the time your baby comes around. Older dogs are calmer and more experienced. It isn't going to get so excited at the baby it forgets to be careful and it's more likely to take the presence of a new family member in stride.
Raising puppies is hard work, and if you try to do that alongside having your own baby, you won't be able to devote the time you need to your puppy. This may lead to neglect of your puppy and result in undesired behavior in your puppy.
8 Observe the Dog Around Children
Once you've made your birth announcement, it's time to brush up on your dog's children-skills. Make a few play-dates for your puppy with some children, and pick up where you left off in your socialization process.
Bring treats and reward your dog for remaining calm when the children make loud noises or run by. There's no need to force a dog to interact with the children if it's not interested. As long as your dog is calm, everything is going according to plan. This is just a refresher for the dog, to remind them what behavior is expected of them.
7 Bring the Party to Your House
Some dogs are more territorial than others and will become upset when there's children in their house. To give your pooch some practice, bring over some children as guests and reward your dog for calming down and accepting the children's presence. Expect some barking at first, or some disgruntled sighs, if your dog isn't interested in playing with children.
Don't force any interaction between the children and your dog. It should be natural and feel right. If you don't like how your dog or the children are behaving, separate them immediately.
6 Herding Dogs
If you have a herding dog, take care to make sure that your dog doesn't decide to herd the children you're socializing them with, at least not in an aggressive manner. First, understand what herding style your dog's breed has been bred to perform.
Do they nip at the heels like a border collie? Do they cut off their target and bark at them like Australian Shepherds? Then you'll know what behavior to look out for.
You need to discourage the dog from herding the children, especially at first so that they avoid making it a pattern. Then you need to give your dog an outlet for this behavior, it is key to their nature. Give them ample exercise and play games of tug and war. Mental exercise is just as important, so teach them new tasks, make their existing tricks more complicated, and bring them to the dog park.
5 Set The Rules Now
Once you're pregnant you should lay down the new rules your dog will have to abide by when the baby arrives. If they aren't allowed in the baby's room, make that clear now. If your dog has a habit of jumping up on you and you're worried it'll set you off balance when you're pregnant, start working on that rule now.
If your dog has been playing with squeaky toys that look like they're for children, buy a new one and train them to leave it alone, if you don't, they may start taking your little one's toys. If your dog will need to be fed, walked, or groomed at a new time, make the change now. You will want your dog to be completely ready for the baby before he or she arrives!
4 While You're In Labor
Have a friend come over to your house to walk your dog regularly while you and your partner are in the hospital. It's not just good for your peace of mind, a well-exercised dog will be more attentive to your instructions when you get home, and when you're introducing your newborn to the dog for the first time.
If your dog stays with someone they're comfortable with and their routine isn't greatly disrupted, you'll find the welcome home less hectic than it would if you didn't plan ahead. So make sure you know who can and will take the dog long before your due date.
3 The First Day Home
Expect your pooch to be curious. After all, if newborns have a sweet smell to us, imagine how interesting they must smell to the dog! This doesn't mean that you have to allow the dog unfettered access to smell and lick the baby up-close, they can smell from a distance.
When you place your child on the floor for the first time, establish the rule quickly that the dog is not to touch the baby and is to move away from the baby on your command.
In fact, you may want the person who has been watching your dog for you while you were in the hospital to hold the dog while you introduce them to the new baby. That way you can have a slow introduction and monitor closely the dog's reaction to the new comer.
2 For Toddlers
If your dog has been cheerful throughout your child's first years, they will likely make the transition to the toddler years well. It's the baby's behavior that you have to monitor closely once they begin to walk.
If your child is left alone with the dog and harms it somehow, even gentle dogs may try to show their displeasure with a nip. Things can escalate if your child isn't able to understand that they're hurting the dog. Do not leave a child in their toddler years alone with a dog, until they're old enough to understand the dog's body language.
1 Know When You're in Over Your Head
If you have a less than ideal situation, you might consider giving your dog to a family without children. If your dog shows sudden aggression or fear, you need to intervene immediately and get professional help. Children and babies have been seriously injured and killed even by small dogs.
Don't be afraid to ask someone to babysit the dog until you consult with a trainer and are sure that the dog is safe to interact with your child. It's much better for all involved to be safe rather than sorry.
Adhering to these simple tips should make your continued dog ownership enjoyable through your child's years.