“How do you keep your child safe from your dog?”
Professor Boo, I have an 11 year old female German Shepherd and a 10 month old baby at home. My dog has always been friendly towards my baby girl and usually kisses her and licks her a lot. My baby is always after the dog, using her as a “ladder” to stand up, grabs her tail and face and usually my dog just walks away but today was the first time she growled at her and showed her teeth when my daughter tried to grab her (my daughter was in my dog’s sleeping area.) Does that mean she might bite her? I love my dog dearly but my baby comes first. What do I do?Patty L.
This is common when little ones begin to toddle around and use the dog as a walking “helper.”
All dogs can bite if they feel they have no other way to stop something that either scares them or hurts them. Cute as it may be to see baby loving the dog, most dogs are not comfortable with this kind of grabbing. It can hurt your dog when a little one tugs on them especially an older dog.
It should not have to come down to a choice between the dog you love and the child you love.
To keep your child safe from your dog, always remember that your baby doesn’t know she may be hurting the dog and your dog is “please stop,” when they growl. Your job is to stop your child before your dog gets to the point where she feels the need to “correct” the baby. There are some simple rules that will help keep your child safe from your dog.
Please start out by thinking of your dog like an open pool in your back yard. You would never turn your back on your baby around an open pool. You would never let her dangle her feet in the pool without you right there, next to her. And you would always be right there to catch her if she fell, etc…
Please follow these rules:
- Dog and baby are never alone together.
- You are always right between them for now.
- Your child can only touch the dog when you are guiding them as to how to gently touch your dog.
- Your baby never wakes the dog, pokes the dog or lands on the dog when your dog is sleeping.
- Your dog is never chased by baby – not with walker, not with toys and not on her own.
- No dog is ever used as a walking helper for a toddler.
The first rule to keep your child safe from your dog is to keep your dog safe from your child.
In addition to the above, review of basic skills that allow parents to get their dog out of a potentially dangerous situation quickly. It is often easier to call the dog away from the child than to ask a toddler to stop advancing on a resting dog. This may mean some new or review training either individually or in a classroom. In my book “Please Don’t Bite the Baby, and Please Don’t Chase the Dogs,” I cover a number of quick techniques to get your dog out of a situation before trouble occurs.
Too many dogs are euthanized each year because they are viewed as aggressive to their toddler. Much of this can be avoided if we try to understand that for most dogs, toddlers can be scary. Most dogs try to warn the toddler away and too many parents punish the dog for the growl. This leads to a dog who feels like they have no alternative but to bite.
When your dog growls, she has given you a great gift – she has told you she is uncomfortable with what your child is doing. Take that gift and return the favor to your dog by following the rules above and teaching or reviewing some really basic skills to keep your child safe from your dog.