DOGS AND CHILDREN
One of the most worrying problems that any dog owner or parent faces is the potential risk of dogs and children living together. When the family dog bites a child us dog trainers hear only too often “There was no warning”, this is not the case in most circumstances. Dogs will send out signals of stress it’s up to dog owners to get more savvy about these signs. Please look for signs of stress when dealing with your dog. Signs of stress are panting, yawning, whining, wide eyes, growling, showing teeth, raised heckles, tails tucked under & avoiding eye contact. If you see any of these signs then ease off the pressure of whatever it is you are doing.
In England in 2012 1,040 children under 10 years old were admitted to hospital following a dog bite. 494 of these for plastic surgery and a staggering 278 were admitted to the oral and facial surgery unit.
So how do you stop these frightening situations?
NEVER leave children unattended with a dog, no matter the size, breed or age. Even if the dog has the sweetest nature and you strongly believe it would never happen, once is enough. Responsible adult supervision at all times is an absolute necessary.
Always give your dog a space of their own to retreat to, make sure all children are taught to respect this space, even toddlers will respond to positive reinforcement for staying away. Always give your dog an escape route, by this I mean the dog should always have a clear exit to their “safe zone”. Dogs that can’t escape are more likely to bite in self-defence.
Children must be taught to handle dogs with respect, it is not acceptable for a child of any age to poke, pull, hit or kick the dog. Toddlers exploring fingers in mouths, eyes, ears, and tails are a true test for any dog. Don’t allow your baby/toddler/child to do this!
No matter what you think that photograph you are taking allowing your child to lay on the dog so show the social networking world how good your dog is with kids, it’s not cute!!! It’s enough to get a sharp intake of breath from any dog training professional. The baby on your knee tugging the dog’s ear is irresponsible.
I am not suggesting here that there should be no interaction between children and dogs, as a mum I find it a beautiful relationship to observe, taking every opportunity to teach my children how to respect another living being.
How do I prepare my dog for the new arrival?
It could be that you already have a dog and you have just found out that you are expecting the patter of tiny feet. Congratulations!!! Parenthood is a fabulous thing; you are about to have the most full on experience of your life, if you thought a puppy was hard you’re in for a huge shock.
Begin when you are pregnant preparing your dog for the arrival, don’t wait until junior comes home! Dogs get stressed at change (so do I!) and stress can cause some nasty reactions. If you make all your changes when junior comes home your dog can easily associate the stress of life directly to the arrival of your precious addition.
If your dog is currently in residence in the spare room that will become the nursery then act now, move your dog to where they are going to sleep. Find your dog another cosy spot to call their own. Make sure it’s an equally great place; we do not want to affect your dog’s quality of life here. If your dog is currently in residence on your bed I can tell you this will not be possible when your baby comes home so get them off NOW, place a nice basket in your room and begin getting them used to that before moving them out completely. Make it a very rewarding place to be with lots of treats and praise for being there. Prevent access to your bed when you are not there by closing the door. I also extended this to my sons nursery….it was a no dog zone; as much as your dog needs their space your baby needs the same. A baby gate across the door is a very effective barrier. In fact it’s a wise move to start popping baby gates up, this way if you need to leave a room then the dog should come with you and you can then safely shut a gate preventing accidents.
The other no go zone is going to be cuddled up with mummy on the sofa, it is quite frankly ridiculous to even consider nursing a baby with a dog lying across you, get your dog used to cuddle time being on the floor, there is nothing more soul-destroying than one day the dog is on your lap contented whilst you relax and watch TV to the next day getting shouted at to get off. So again act now.
Look for potential problems, does your dog like to race you on the stairs? Does your dog love to jump all over you when you come home? Do they like to get right in all the shopping bags to inspect what you purchased at Tesco? All of these are potential problems, think about it now and do something about it. If you wait until babies’ arrival and then implement all your changes you are not really creating a good association to your dog.
What about introducing my dog to my baby?
Let me tell you from experience when labour hits it hits hard!! You and your partner will rush out the house in a whirl wind of excitement, apprehension and pain (for mum!!!) your poor dog is probably at home wondering what all the fuss is, then after a few hours (if you’re lucky) dad returns home, then leaves, then comes home. If at all possible get your dog used to going for a walk with a relative, friend or dog walker as you could be in hospital for a few days. Whilst you’re in the hospital give one of the used baby blankets to your partner to take home and let your dog sniff. When your dog is sniffing this then give them a treat, this is going to begin building up a good association to this smell. Put the blanket in a sealed bag and bring it out at intervals repeating sniff then treat.
When the day arrives that mum comes home then mum should enter the house first, alone. Your dog probably hasn’t seen you for a few days and may get excited. So go in first and calm them down, once calm dad can bring in baby, please encourage him to bring junior in in his arms rather than in the baby carrier. Mum should be armed with some tasty treats, if your dog tries to jump dad can then turn his back and mum can give the dog a treat for sitting. When your dog is calm let them have a little sniff then mum can give a treat and then why not give your dog a tasty Kong in their safe spot whilst you fuss your gorgeous new baby.
Make sure you don’t wait until baby is sleeping to interact with your dog; you want them to know that the presence of baby means good things not the absence of baby means attention. Lots of frozen Kongs, chews, treats and toys will help you.
When you go out walking with your pram do not attach your dogs leash to the pram!!! One false move from the dog can spell disaster.
All of these tips will help you have a good future. If you are in any doubt then contact a local force free dog trainer to help you. I have put below some rules you should go over with your children to keep them safe.
- Never touch a dog that you don’t know.
- Even if you know the dog, always ask the owner permission first.
- Even when you have permission, don’t invade the dog’s body space. Allow the dog to come up to you and sniff the top of your closed fist (palm down). If the dog doesn’t want to come and greet you, respect that and leave it alone. Don’t approach a dog from behind. Don’t pet directly on the top of its head. This could be threatening for the dog because the top of its head can be very sensitive, so it’s best to pet on the back or chest.
- Never stare at a dog and never put your face close to a dogs face. Remember to look at the dog briefly and then look away, look at the dog, and then look away. These are calming signals and you are telling the dog that you aren’t a threat.
- Do not tease a dog.
- Do not touch a dog that has been tied up or left in a garden or outside a shop.
- Tell an adult immediately if you see a dog loose. Do not touch it.
- Do not touch a dog while it’s eating. You wouldn’t want a dog to come and take what you are eating.
- Do not touch a dog while it is sleeping. You might startle it and it might snap without thinking.
- Do not take a toy or bone away from a dog if it is playing with it.
11. Do not push a dog off the sofa or chair if you want to sit there. Always get an adult to remove the dog for you.
- Don’t scream or run away from a dog. If a strange dog comes up to you and you are scared, fold your arms, stand still, look away and completely ignore it until it loses interest in you and goes away. The boring you are the quicker it will go away.
- If a dog tries to bite you, put a bag or coat between you and the dog and slowly back away to a safe place.
- In the unlikely event a dog starts to bite you, get on the floor and curl up like a hedgehog putting your arms around your head, stay as still as you can until help comes.
- Remember a dog is an animal and not a cuddly toy. Dogs don’t like being hugged. Be gentle and don’t rough play.
The power of positivity X©