We were in Acworth last week working with a new Home Dog Training client and his two year old Cocker Spaniel.  He also had a Boston Terrier, but he told me the Boston was just fine.  The Cocker was the problem boy.  He never listened, would pull on a walk, jumped on furniture, and begged at the table.  The issue was that our client was not being consistent in his commands and was not able to get the Cocker Spaniel’s focus.  Once we resolved these issues, everything was great.  He was very happy and the Cocker Spaniel was behaving and respecting our client’s wishes.

Never allow your baby or dog to make the final decision when they are together

As we were finishing up, he related a story concerning the dogs and their newborn baby. A day or two earlier he had put their newborn baby down next to their two dogs.   Their little baby reached over and thought the dogs were new toys.  He pulled their ears and poked them in their eyes.  He then told me that the dogs seemed fine with that, so leaving their baby with the dogs should probably be just fine and OK.

I think our client was amazed when he saw the look on my face…

I wanted to be very clear to him.  I looked him directly in his eyes (without poking them) and told him NO.  A newborn baby is small, low to the ground, makes quick, forward motions with their hands, and squeals in a high pitch.  This type of movement and sound aggravates and adrenalizes most dogs.  When this occurs, the dogs will first give off a low growl indicating that they are done with the interaction.

Now what?  The newborn baby doesn’t “speak dog”!  Their little baby will continue to poke, squeal and move towards them.  Now comes the “bad part”.  

The dogs had previously given the baby a verbal warning in “dog speak”.  That did not work because the baby is still doing his “stuff”.  They will now ramp it to their next communication level of a snap.  For my client’s dogs, a snap is still a passive action designed to passively, yet forcefully explain their position of “leave me alone”.

If (more likely “when”) my client’s dogs snap at his small baby, their mouths will come into contact with his baby’s soft, delicate, and thin skin.  This will result in a bruise, a scrape, or puncture wound.   At the very minimum, his baby will be terrified.  Besides terror, this situation will often cause pain and possible need of medical assistance.  This is a situation that should never happen and is completely avoidable by a watchful and informed parent.

PARENTS!  Manage your baby and your dog!

  • Never leave your baby and dog alone.  Never! Never! Never!
  • Do not allow a sibling to take your place with your baby and dogs if you have to leave the room.
  • If you are with your baby and your dogs, have your dogs on leashes and always be in the middle.
  • If you want to have your baby and your dogs greet each other, there must be at least two adults present.  One adult has the dogs on leashes (it would be best if you had one adult for each dog), ready to remove them from the area.  The other holds the baby.  Allow the dogs to slowly approach.  If the baby starts to make high pitched squeals or become too animated, back off.
  • Make sure that your dogs’ toys and your baby’s toys are completely different.  If possible, do not have toys present when your dogs and baby are in the same vicinity.
  • This may seem a little gross, but if your newborn baby has gone potty in their diapers, separate your baby and dog immediately and change your baby’s diapers.  (For all you dads…) Make sure you do a really good job.  Potty smell often excites dogs and they will want to actively get to the point of the smell.
  • Do not have your baby and dogs together if they are over adrenalated (wanting to actively play) or cranky (in a bad mood, distrustful, loss of focus).
  • If any form of aggression takes place, separate the two instantly.

The most important thing that I told my client and emphasize with all my dog training clients is that safety for all is imperative.  My client has all the time in the world to have his baby and dogs meet and socialize.  The creation of a strong bond and the establishment of mutual trust between your child and dogs is important and should be done.  Almost all of the time, the child and dogs will become best of friends and inseparable.  To make it work, it must be done slowly and safely.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.