Whether you are bringing your new baby home to meet your dog for the first time, or thinking about adopting that dog your kids have been asking for, there are some basic ways to safely introduce kids and canines. We spoke with Jennifer Shryock, a certified dog behavior consultant and founder of Family Paws Parent Education, about how to make a smooth transition.
Never force interaction between a dog and a child.
Pay attention to your dog's body language to determine if the dog is engaging with the situation or tolerating it. Shryock recommends allowing your child to pet the dog a couple times and then stop. Wait to see if the dog is interested in continuing the interaction.
Have reasonable expectations for your dog.
Parents often think a dog should put up with a baby crawling near the animal at eye level and reaching and grabbing. "You can't let [a] toddler freely explore the dog," Shryock says. A new dog will have a tolerance limit for your kids, and it's important to recognize that limit and provide the dog with a quiet area to retreat to when the interaction might become too much.
Instruct your kids not to crowd the dog or carry it around.
Instead, create safe, supervised activities for your toddler and your dog. This might be dropping a treat in the dog's crate or filling up the food and water bowls together. No matter what you do,?Shryock always recommends total supervision.
Rule of thumb (or dewclaw)
If it doesn’t feel right or it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Any behavioral issue is going to take time; there are no quick fixes. And if a child shouldn’t be doing something to correct an animal’s behavior, a parent shouldn’t be doing it. For this reason, physical force with your dog in front of your kids is not recommended. Positive reinforcement is key.
If you’re expecting
Get to know your dog better during your pregnancy and use that time to reinforce basic training.
Study your dog’s body language and learn to identify triggers that stress or upset your dog, so you know how to protect your pet from these situations.
The best way to cultivate a good relationship with your dog and your new baby is to make sure your dog observes and participates in positive, daily routines with you and your baby. Never force your dog to check out the baby. Instead, invite him or her to sit next to you while you hold the new addition.