Bringing a new baby home can be an adjustment for pets. With a careful introduction and supervision, most dogs adapt well to the tiny new addition.
However, when your little one becomes mobile, everything changes again.
Dogs can have varying reactions to the newly mobile little person in their home. Some quite enjoy children and are very happy to have someone else trucking around on all fours with them. Other dogs are less certain about the situation.
Remember that before your baby was mobile, your pets simply moved away when they didn’t want to interact with the baby — but this newfound mobility changes things.
Finding a space where he can snooze in comfort can become a bit more challenging for your dog.
Let’s face it — we all like to have a place to relax that we can call our own little corner of the world. Does your dog have a place he can call his? It’s not fair to expect your dog to move away when he isn’t really sure exactly where he should go.
Consider using a dog bed, blanket or kennel to mark a space that is "off limits" and reserved only for your dog. Try and pick a location for your dog’s space that is not easily accessible to the baby, and be sure to establish this as a "baby-free" zone your dog can always get to.
Supervision is extremely important at this stage. Most accidents between children and pets happen in that moment when no one is watching.
A baby at this age does not understand that pulling hair, ears or tails is going to hurt the dog. And you can’t expect your dog to just understand that the baby that doesn’t know better.
At this age, most children are touching (or taste-testing) everything, and learning how to make different sounds. Dogs don’t always know how to respond to that shrill squeal, excited slapping or the toy that was tossed inches from their head. These are just a few reasons why constant supervision is so important.
If you are going to have a shower or plan to go downstairs to fold laundry for a little bit, don’t leave your child and your dog alone.
The simplest solution is to use a barrier, like a babygate, to separate when you can’t supervise.
Once your baby becomes mobile, there are a number of changes that happen in your home — things go up, things get locked up, and things are moved around.
Baby-proofing often means a bit of re-arranging in your home — and all of these changes can have an impact on your dog.
And, aside from all of the re-arranging, which toys can he play with? Does he have to share his toys with the baby? If both your dog and your children have stuffed teddies, toys that squeak, and those wonderful teething rings to chew on, you can see where there could be a little confusion!
While you are sorting out the toy situation, consider creating separate areas for toys. If you do catch your dog with one of the baby’s toys, simply remove it and replace it with one of his own — followed by lots of praise for playing with his own toys.
Please don’t ever place a crawling baby near a dog that’s eating. It’s unfair to expect a dog to tolerate a baby playing with his food while he eats — even if you have the most tolerant and passive pet in the world!
A small child is not going to understand the signals a dog gives, and if more subtle signals are ignored, a dog may try more obvious ones to make a point. There may not be a problem the first time or the second time — but everyone has their limits. Please don’t take chances with children and pets when food is involved.
Don’t force contact. Holding a dog that is used to children so he can be patted is a nice way to maintain control; but restraining a dog that is not comfortable with children so he can be patted can create a negative association.
While it is very important to ensure your child learns to pat the dog nicely and gently, it is better to hold your child and provide your dog with freedom to move away if he wishes.
Aside from providing a way for you to assist your child with gentle interaction, holding the baby shows your dog that the baby in your arms clearly belongs to you. This can also help in establishing the new pack member as part of the family.
It’s important to ensure there is a mutual respect between your canine companion and your newest addition. If you are having trouble with your dog and your new baby, consider consulting an expert for more advice.
Remember that a mobile baby is a big adjustment for everyone in the household — and that includes your family pet!
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.