Kids & Canines

A baby! Introducing the child to your dog. “Spot meet Jennifer”

Newborn baby and friendly Shiba inu dog in home bedroom.

As the Twig is Bent, So Grows the Tree!

The earlier the better as far as helping your family dog and your child form a good relationship.  Young Jennifer’s future outlook on dogs, in general, will be influenced by the interactions which take place with her family pet.  Spot’s outlook on children, in general, will be affected by Jennifer’s actions. The following information will give you some ideas for helping your child and your dog coexist successfully.

Introducing your dog to infants.

The key to infants and dogs getting along is supervision, supervision, supervision.  Dogs and babies should not be left alone together.  Most dogs get along just fine with infants, but why not do a little advance preparation to make sure the meeting goes smoothly and the family lives happily ever after!  Dogs that might cause concern are those which are spoiled, those which guard toys and food, those which are prey and chase oriented, dogs that are high in energy and out of control, and those which have demonstrated dominant or aggressive tendencies.

All family dogs, however, should be obedience trained.  If a baby is expected, work with the dog to be sure he can reliably sit and lie down on command, stay when told, come when called, and walk on a loose leash.  Sit especially will be invaluable.  Sit and stay for attention instead of jumping up on people should be well established.  Your ability to send the dog to a specific target area, such as a special rug, and have the dog remain there until release will be very helpful.  A dog obedience class instructor can help you with this training sequence.  Be sure your dog realizes that you are the leader, the decision-maker.  Earn your dog’s respect and obedience with inductive methods.

If anything in the dog’s lifestyle will changes, it should change before the baby comes home.  For instance, if the dog is not allowed into the baby’s room. Now is the time to start boundary training the dog.  Go into the room, tell the dog to sit-stay or send him to the target area.  You might simply teach the dog not to cross the threshold into the room.  Make staying outside of the room very special and good.  This is a time to give the dog a treat such as a Nylabone spread with peanut butter or a Rubber Kong toy stuffed with goodies.

Get the dog used to the baby before the baby comes home.  Set up your crib and changing area ahead of time.  Get a teddy bear or doll and place it in the crib.  A few times a day take a couple of seconds to go over to the doll.  Sprinkle some powder or rub some lotion on the doll to get your dog used to these new activities and smells.  If your dog likes to play ball, have some balls nearby and toss a ball for him while attending to the baby.  If your dog is food-oriented, a container of freeze-dried liver, raisins, or processed cheese nuggets could be available and one or two given to the dog while you attend the doll.  In this way, the dog starts to associate a pleasant state of affairs with the baby equipment.  Get a tape of an infant crying play it while the dog eats, or during other times your dog is happy.  If the baby is born in a hospital, you can bring home a blanket that has the baby’s scent on it.  Wrap the doll in it and allow the dog to investigate this novel smell.  Be happy and praise the dog.  Get the dog used to doing a brief sit-stay and then release to sniff the “baby”.  Much praise should occur.

Baby Jennifer’s homecoming

It’s a girl!  It’s been decided that Grandpa will carry baby Jennifer into the house instead of Mom. Spot may be so glad to see Mom, he might forget his manners and jump up, causing ill feelings or endangering Jennifer.  Even if this doesn’t occur, Mom might be nervous and Spot might be sensitive to that and worry too.  Mom will greet Spot, but not make such a fuss that the dog becomes overly excited.  Allow Spot to sniff Jennifer all over unless he’s too excited and out of control.

The important thing to remember in the first days together is that Jennifer should produce attention and happiness to Spot.  You can accomplish this with little effort.  For example, when Mom changes Jennifer, tidbits or balls can be tossed to Spot.  An apron with big pockets will be handy!  Or have a jar of treats or balls ready on the changing table.

When the baby cries, follow the same procedure, or at least praise and pet your dog on the way over to pick up the baby.  Mom should speak softly and loving to Spot while holding Jennifer.  Allow spot to be nearby for an occasional pat.  Once the positive association is made, it will be less and less important to take these steps.  Relax and enjoy, but supervise your growing family.

Introducing your Dog to Toddlers.

Beware!  When Jennifer begins to crawl and walk the situation changes and supervision is very important.  Never leave toddlers alone with a dog even though the dog has been friendly and tolerant toward the child.  A poke in the eye, a trip, and fall into the dog, a loud scream into the dog’s ear could produce an orienting reflex that might make the dog whip around and knock the baby over.  Or worse, the child’s actions might cause the dog to snap.  Spot should have an area of his own– a bed, a crate, an easily identified space.  It should be easily accessible to the dog, close to family activities, but out of the traffic pattern.  Spot can escape to this area when he wants to be left alone.  Respect this.  Jennifer must be kept away from Spot’s “safety” zone.

Introducing Dogs to Young Children.

The mistake most parents make is to allow children too much freedom to interact at will with the family dog.  Some common but inappropriate actions are running and screaming and throwing themselves at the dog.  Hugging from behind.  Blowing at the dog’s face, playing tug of war, and hand teasing by pushing and shoving at the dog’s face are not good games.  Telling the children to stop is not enough.  Teach them some good games to play with the dog:

  • Mom or Dad can hold Spot while Jennifer goes into a different area to hide.  Just like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, Spot can go on a search and rescue mission and find Jennifer.
  • Adult supervised retrieving is fun if Spot gives the ball up nicely.  A ball on a rope is convenient.
  • Mom and Jennifer can call Spot back and forth for portions of his meal.
  • High energy dogs can get even more exercise by jumping over a small barrier or through a hula hoop in the middle of the recall path.  Rules for the game: At first until the dog understands, the jump can be placed in a doorway with one person on each side, so the dog has no choice but to go through.  The jump should be no higher than halfway from the floor to the dog’s elbow.  The floor should be covered with a nonslip surface.  This game should also be a math lesson for the children–no more than ten jumps during a play session!

What About Other Dogs?

Appropriate interactions with the family dog are a fine place to start, but now is a good time to teach children how to interact with dogs that belong to their friends and relatives and dogs which they might encounter on the street.  Jennifer should realize that MOST dogs are like MOST children, MOST of the time, but there are a few rules to follow:

How to Prevent-A-Bite

The most frequently bitten people are children.  Usually, the bite is not from a stray dog, but the child’s own dog or one he knows such as Grandma’s or the neighbor’s.  The following concepts will help prevent accidents.

  • Don’t go into a dog’s yard.
  • Don’t reach into a dog’s car.
  • Don’t bother a dog while he’s eating.
  • Don’t bother a dog while he’s sleeping.
  • Always ask permission before going up to a dog, even if you know him.
  • If the owners say it’s OK, extend your hand and show the dog your knuckles.  If the dog stretches forward to sniff or seems friendly you can pet him.
  • The best place to pet the dog is on the side of the head or under the chin or on the chest.  Don’t pet on top of the head or back of the neck.
  • If the dog pulls back and acts afraid or acts angry, don’t pet the dog.
  • If you encounter a dog that seems very angry, stand like a post.  Posts don’t run, they don’t make any noise.  They just standstill.  The dog will likely sniff you and go away.

Want to check out more information on how to introduce dogs to children check out the article by Finally, a well-socialized and trained dog can adjust to any situation. Call or email: Sandy at 254-394-6968 or

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