Category Archives for "Kids: 0-2"

Helping Dogs Adjust to a Baby

We are expecting a baby in a few months. I’m a little worried about how well our two dogs will adjust, but my husband says everything will be fine. What do you suggest I do to get ready and to stop worrying? ~ Elena

A new baby causes many changes in a household, so it’s great that you are thinking about ways to help your dogs with the transition. Sign up for a group obedience class that you and your husband can attend with the dogs. Seeing how the dogs behave around a variety of distractions–and every group class is full of distractions!–will help you to pinpoint behaviors to focus on. Having dogs that will walk nicely on a leash and sit and stay for a few minutes will be a big help when you are busy with the baby.

Start thinking about ways you can provide physical and mental exercise for the dogs in the weeks following your baby’s arrival. Your dogs will need extra outlets for their energy during this busy time, and without advance planning, you may find that they don’t get the exercise they need. Ask your friends and neighbors if they can either help exercise your dogs or perhaps watch the baby so that you can take the dogs for a long walk.

Spend some time with your dogs around children. Are they comfortable with the kids’ behavior? Do they worry about loud noises or abrupt movements? If you aren’t sure how your dogs would act around kids, talk to a dog trainer to get some training suggestions that are specifically tailored to your dogs’ needs.

Be aware that most dogs do fine for the first six months. If there are going to be problems, you’ll most likely see them when your baby begins to crawl. So keep an eye on your dogs’ behavior and watch for changes as your baby achieves each mobility milestone.

Dog is Overprotective of Baby

Our baby is 3 weeks old, and Daisy has decided it is her job to protect him from visitors. If I am holding the baby and a visitor comes close to see him, she runs over and barks. When the baby is in the bassinette, she won’t let the visitor get close to the baby.

How can I stop this? People are afraid when she does this, and I can’t deal with her and the baby at the same time. She is very gentle with the baby. I need some help! ~ Kathy

When you can’t work with Daisy, put her in another room when guests are over so that she does not rehearse the behavior, which will only make it harder to change.

At first you’ll need someone Daisy is comfortable with to help with the baby while you teach Daisy that guests = good things for her. For example, your mom could hold the baby, while you give Daisy treats as a guest enters and leaves the room. When the guest is visible, treats are being offered to Daisy. When the guest is out of sight, no treats.

We want Daisy to not only tolerate a guest approaching the baby, but to be thrilled about it. Depending on how social and treat motivated she is, this could take time. Go through the counter-conditioning process slowly so that the dog is truly comfortable before increasing the challenge. Behavior deteriorates under stress, so we want Daisy to be really, really comfortable about guests around your son.

Watch Daisy for signs of stress, both when guests are over and when it’s just you and your son. Keep your training sessions short. You may want to have a trainer come over and do a session or two with you to help you get started.

Try making a treat rattle: Take a 20-ounce soda bottle and cut a few holes in the bottom. Fill the bottle with treats or kibble, cap it, and lay it where you can reach it easily. When a guest is over, hold the bottle by the neck and “spray” treats on the floor. There are four benefits to a treat rattle: you don’t have to get up, there is than one treat to hunt for, Daisy will start associating guests with a sprinkle of treats, and you’ll have enough treats to use it several times before refilling.

Dealing with a Fearful Dog

We adopted a 1-year-old pointer a few months ago. Bart snapped at me the first day when I was petting him.  A couple days later, he did it again. I wanted to get rid of him then and there, since I was due to have our first child in a couple months.  But my husband wanted to give Bart a chance, so I agreed that he could stay if the behavior changed.

Nothing changed.  My husband isn’t interested in dog training. Bart has snapped at him too, when he tries to kiss the dog’s face.

Today Bart snapped at me when I tried to get a thorn out of his paw.  Clearly this dog is still fearful.
Our son is now one month old.  I am terrified that something will happen when our son is a toddler and gets into Bart’s personal space, which is bound to happen.

I have tried working with the dog myself, but my husband seems to undo all my efforts.  He won’t discuss getting rid of Bart or training tactics with me.  He says that when Bart bites our son, he will shoot the dog—which is totally stupid and too late for everyone.

Any advice about how I can persuade him that this is a dangerous situation? ~ Tamara

Your dog needs help. He’s not going to get better on his own. Dogs grow into—not out of—aggression if they aren’t given the training and support they need.

As you said, it’s short-sighted and unfair to blame (or shoot!) the dog for acting out of fear when he hasn’t been given the help he needs. As a starting point, I’d recommend reading Nicole Wilde’s book,Help for Your Fearful Dog.

Babies and toddlers can be scary to dogs. They move very differently from adults, and they have no ability to read a dog’s body language. Once they start to crawl, they are quick and eager to investigate. Your dog will be very uncomfortable with your son making a beeline toward him.

Your dog has shown the ability to warn without causing injury, which is good. However, your son won’t recognize any warning signals and is years from being able to be consistently kind and fair to a dog. So your son and dog are going to have lots of miscommunications, and the risk for a bite is high. (And 77% of dog bites to children are on the face, so we really can’t wait for the first bite before doing something.)

Giving your dog the training and support he needs will require a committed and consistent effort from both you and your husband. If you think that you two don’t have the time and energy to work with your dog, then truly the kindest thing for everyone is for you to find him a new home that does not include children.  Then your son will be safe, and the dog will be interacting with adults, who have a fair shot of understanding canine stress signals and warnings to avoid exacerbating his fear.

I’m really sorry, I wish there were an easy answer for you, but there is not.  I hope you and your husband can find a solution that is right for all four of you.

Getting Son Acquainted with a New Dog

My fiancé wanted a puppy, but I didn’t want to deal with the chewing, training, and peeing all over the house. I wanted an older dog, one we didn’t have to work with quite as much. However my two year old only likes smaller dogs and my fiancé likes bigger dogs (as he says “something I don’t have to bend down to pet”).

We agreed to look for a slightly older, large-breed puppy to fit both of our needs. We recently found the most adorable, friendly 5-month-old yellow lab.

We’ve had the dog for about a week now, which I know it hasn’t been long, but my two-year old screams and panics anytime the dog comes near. I know the dog only wants to get to know my son, and he’s not growling or barking at him. How can I help them get acquainted without traumatizing my son? ~ Cassie

Make sure your puppy is getting tons of exercise. It’s virtually impossible to wear out a lab pup (and be aware that labs and goldens have the longest puppyhood of all), so your son is probably reacting to the puppy’s active and impulsive behavior.  A tired dog is a good dog.

Then set up some fun interactions between your son and the dog. Try putting a baby gate in a doorway with you and your son on one side and the pup on the other. Encourage your son to toss a ball or some treats over the gate. Make sure that his arm doesn’t reach across the gate because the puppy will jump at his hand, which could be scary.  Just keep them each on their own side for now.

Teach your dog to sit using treats.  Practice it a lot.  If your dog sits reliably, you’ll have better control of him. You can also have your son tell the dog to sit—and then you’ll say it too. The dog will be responding to you, but that’s not important.  We want your son to see that he can communicate a little with the dog and that there are times that the puppy isn’t so impulsive or scary.

Narrate the dog’s actions for your son, so that he can understand what the dog is doing. You can also make up some silly stories about your son and the dog. Imaginary tales filled with humor and fun can help your son to become more interested in the dog.

I hope you’ll be able to turn this situation around so that you, your fiancé, and your son all develop happy relationships with your new pup.

Old Dog, New Baby!

My 8-year-old dog has had behavioral problems for a long time, but my husband and I ignored them. A year ago we had a child. As my daughter gets more active and grabby, I am afraid Carly is going to bite her. Janette races after Carly, and Carly tries to get away. I sometimes resort to locking Carly in different rooms.

Last night, my daughter tried to pet Carly through a baby gate. Carly growled and I saw her teeth!
Carly is part of our family, and we hate to keep her separated until Janette goes to bed. Any advice? ~ Linda

Since your dog is 8 and has some long-term issues, we aren’t likely to convince her that kids are the greatest thing ever. When you separate her, give her a chew toy with a little peanut butter inside so she has something enjoyable to do. Increase her exercise as well so that she naps more.

Supervising an active toddler is exhausting.  I know you feel bad about separating Carly, but she may prefer to be separated than to be constantly on alert for Janette’s approach.

When both you and your husband are home, include Carly in your activities. One of you will watch the dog, and the other, Janette. Don’t let Janette get closer than 5’ from Carly. She’s uncomfortable, and if she feels trapped, she may bite.

As parents, we want our kids and dogs to love one another, but trying to force the relationship will backfire. Don’t ever restrain Carly so that Janette can pet her. Many parents think this will help, but it makes the dog even more anxious about the child.

Instead encourage interaction from a distance. When your daughter is in her high chair, let Carly clean the floor. Teach your daughter to toss a treat or toy to Carly. When you use a baby gate, put a box on one side so that you have at least 15” of depth between them.

Be very cautious.  Janette’s physical abilities are improving every day. You need to be sure that Carly feels that she is at a safe distance at all times. She’s telling you she’s uncomfortable and she needs your help. Consider bringing a dog trainer in to give you more specific suggestions as well.

Toddler Obsessed with Skittish Dog

I have a HUGE problem. My dog is very skittish, and my 2-year old son wild.

Andrew pursues her all the house. He laughs when she leaps up to move out of his way. And for some unknown reason, he just doesn’t quite get the word “no” and “dog” being in the same sentence.

He is obsessed with her tail. He smacks it every chance he gets.  When we all go out, he throws rocks and gravel at her.

We had the dog years before we had our son. I don’t feel as though I should have to get rid of her because of him. She has never done anything back to him and gives him no reason to mess with her. I am just afraid it will turn ugly. I would hate for her to bite him, although my husband always says that if she was going to do it, she would have done it by now. ~ Mandy

Toddlers are notoriously short of empathy. Your son isn’t mature enough to understand that he’s scaring or hurting your dog. He just likes getting a reaction.

That said, you need to do everything you can to prevent him from bothering your dog. Indoors make liberal use of baby gates, so that your dog can see and hear you, but Andrew can’t get to her. When you and Andrew are playing outside, leave her in.

When you take her out for a potty break, try giving him something to hold that he can’t throw well, like a zip-lock bag with water and a few floating toys. He can squish the bag to make them move, but the weight will make it difficult for him to throw. Keep that as your special outside toy that he can only have when your dog is outside with you (and change the floating toys from time to time to keep it interesting).

Most important, make sure you praise and reward Andrew when he interacts with the dog in appropriate ways. As much as he needs you to stop him when he’s doing something wrong, he also needs to know how pleased you are every time he is gentle and kind.

boy and siberian husky

Take Treats Gently

My two-year-old likes to give our dog treats, but I worry the dog will nip his fingers. Sometimes my son seems nervous too, and he pulls his hand back instead of giving the treat. Then the dog gets grabby. How can my son give the dog a treat while keeping all of his fingers? ~ Carla in Pittsburgh

Manual dexterity is a challenge for most preschoolers; they have trouble holding a dog treat and then releasing it. There are many ways to make treat delivery a bit easier and less scary for young kids.

  • Drop the treats on the floor.
  • Give your son a bowl to hold while the dog eats a treat out of it.
  • Put the treat on the back of his hand. Young kids often have trouble holding their hand open. Their fingers curl up and form a bowl. It may be better to teach your son to put out his fist and for you to place a treat on top of his hand.
  • Have him sit on the counter (with you right there, of course) and toss treats to the dog. This works well for bouncy dogs who might bump or frighten your child.

 

old dog

Older Dogs May Be Less Tolerant

I have two old dogs—12 and 14 years old. They have never shown any aggression toward anyone, but last week the 12 year old growled at my 1-year-old grandson! I was shocked. My dogs have never lived with kids, but they’ve always been fine with the ones we meet on the street. What should I do when my grandson comes over? ~ Robert

You hit on two important points, Robert. First, your dogs are older. With age comes some creakiness and discomfort. We’re all a bit less tolerant when we are uncomfortable; dogs are no exception.

Also, your dogs have never lived with children. We all know kids behave very differently than adults, and for most dogs, the unfamiliar can be worrisome. Short interactions with strangers on a walk are much easier than an extended visit with a toddler.

I think your best bet is to manage the situation when your grandson comes over. When things are calm, let your dogs hang out with the family.

When your grandson is active or the dogs seem tired, put your dogs in a bedroom with a good chew toy. They will appreciate it, and you can focus on spoiling your grandson.

greyhound

Labrador or Greyhound?

I’m a single mom with a 2-year-old son, and I would really like to adopt a greyhound. I have talked with a local greyhound rescue, and they have approved I have talked with a local greyhound rescue, and they have approved my application.

But everyone keeps telling me to get a Labrador because they are the best dog for kids!

I like labs, but I don’t think I have enough energy to live with one. On the other hand, I definitely want a dog that will love my son. What do you think? Should I get a lab? ~ Phoebe

Go for the greyhound—but make sure you choose one that is highly social (not just tolerant) with children.

There isn’t a best breed, but there are “best traits” for your family. There are laid-back labs and hyper greyhounds. Never choose simply by breed. Instead choose a dog that is social, gentle, tolerant, and has an energy level compatible with yours.

I’m sure the rescue group can help you identify dogs who may be good matches. Ask if they perform behavioral evaluations (or if you can hire someone to assess a dog before you adopt).

Take your time. When the right dog comes along, you’ll know.