Many dogs are perfectly happy to be around children of all ages, and it often surprises owners to find out that their dogs behave unfavorably when they bring a newborn baby home. Dogs and children can live and grow up together in perfect harmony, but the key to creating this happy balance is in spotting the signs that your dog is unhappy, stressed or anxious, and acting accordingly.
To dogs, children can be scary and unusual creatures. Young children in particular are seen by dogs as being unpredictable and hard to read. Children often misinterpret warning signs that dogs give off as being friendly – a young child will often see a dog’s bared teeth as a smile, for example. It is therefore important to supervise your dog around children at all times; never leave a child and dog alone together, even for a short moment. It only takes a second for a baby to pull on a dog’s tale and be snapped at, or for a dog to run past a staggering toddler and knock him over. No matter how much you may trust your dog, you can never fully predict how they will interact with children.
In the early days of having a new baby and a dog, take the time to give your pooch some special care and attention. Continue with your dog walking routine as much as possible, shower them with praise and affection. This will prevent your dog from becoming jealous of his new tiny family member.
As your child gets older and learns to crawl, walk and explore, it will be helpful to be able to physically separate your dog and children. The reason for this is to allow your dog to get some space should they feel pestered, so that they can sleep, relax and eat in peace. Consider installing baby gates in key areas of the house. This also works to prevent children from getting into things like the dog’s food or climbing into their bed.
Always keep a close eye out for stress signals which show that your dog is feeling uncomfortable around children. This may include moving or looking away, licking the lips, and yawning. If your dog exhibits these behaviors around your child then it is time to separate them.
As well as training your dog how to behave around children, ensure that your own child understands how to treat your dog well. As they get older they will know how to respect dogs and they will make excellent pet owners themselves.