The arrival of a baby into a home that contains your dog brings about a few issues and questions that need to be addressed both before the child arrives and after.
But before I give you a few quick tips on prepping the dog for the arrival and addressing issues during the arrival, I would like to note that no infant should ever be left unattended with any dog ever. It does not matter how long you have had your dog and how unaggressive the dog is, any dog can and will bite. For example, if you have ever picked up a dog not knowing it had a hurt leg, and the dog reacts to the pain by nipping at you, you can see that even faithful Fido will bite if he feels he is defending himself, when in pain, or in emotional distress. So please: no dog should ever be left alone with an infant.
When I am asked to do a consult to check a dog to see if there will be issue with a child, I run a few tests.
1. I make sure that I can freely take toys and treats from the dog. Even grabbing the toys or treats directly from the dog’s mouth. The majority of the time a child is bitten by a dog is because the child tried to take something the dog was guarding. Babies are grabby, combine that with a dog that guards toys or treats and that is a recipe for disaster. If you notice that your dog has an issue with resource guarding, consult a professional trainer/behaviorist for an evaluation and possible remediation plan.
2. A seed test: I have sound effects loaded onto my laptop. One of these is a baby crying. I play the clip of the crying baby and observe the dog. If there is no reaction at all, that is a good sign. The dog might just look around, try to locate the source of the sound and be alert. That is also OK. Where I take note is if the sound of a crying human baby seems to cause the dog distress. Again, if you note distress, consult a professional. This is an easy problem to deal with with desensitization training.
3. See how the dog reacts at a playground with excited children running and screaming (as you will find out children like to do). What we are looking for is an abnormal focus on the children that are running.
Again this alone might not mean anything but for dogs that have high prey drive, we do not want the child becoming the object of a game of chase for the dog. Also I look for general distress with normal noises from children playing. This can be addressed, but it is important to see when your dog becomes uncomfortable, so that you can keep your dog out of uncomfortable situations.
With common sense, a solid leader, and clear communication with your dog, bringing home baby should be joyous for all. If you notice anything at all that seems unclear, consult a professional and address it.
For more information, visit http://zen-dogs.com.