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The Do's & Don'ts Of Dogs & Babies

When I was pregnant I got lectured constantly about my dog, as my family knows how close she and I are and were concerned about how she would react when the babies came home, and how I would keep them safe.
 
At a antenatal class they talked about dogs, and some advice that really stuck with me as I hadn’t considered the scenario specifically at the time was that the dog and the babies and you cannot be allowed to be asleep in the same room because when you are asleep you have no control over what the dog does. This was absolutely true.
 
When I brought the boys home I did not let Lulu sleep in the same room, even though she was accustomed to sleeping with me. It’s not that I thought she would hurt the babies, if I’m honest it was more to keep everyone else happy because if something (anything!) happened I would never hear the end of it! Maybe she would wake in the night, curious, sniff the bassinet and knock it over? Who knows?! As a new Mum basically any wild possibility to do with the safety of your babies seems much more likely than it really is. You shift into an alternate universe in those early days and it’s an awkwardly unfamiliar place to be.
 
As time went on and we all became more accustomed to the new arrivals presence, I realised Lulu was absolutely no danger to the babies- awake or asleep. She was curiously wary of them (to her they were mostly just a major disturbance to her sleep) and if she accidentally became to close to them she would get up & politely move away. As they became older I encouraged them to give her ‘gentle pats’ in safe places like her side and chest, and allowed her to give them little licks on the hands but she has always remained more interested in her relationships with the adult humans in the house and that’s fine by me. Of course it’s nice if your dogs and children are besties but I know that will probably come later and even if it never does I respect Lulus decision, whatever she chooses.

 
a dog and baby sleep side by side in bed asleep


I took this photo quickly because I knew the moment wouldn’t last, and sure enough, the second she woke and realised she was right next to a baby, she promptly got up and left the room. That’s why now I allow Lulu to sleep wherever she chooses, because I know she won’t knowingly choose to sleep near the boys. And I’m comfortable with one or both of the boys in the bed with Lulu at my feet (not physically comfortable of course but that’s another whole story).
 
The other day we were all playing outside and my Mum innocently suggested we put one of the boys on Lulu ‘for a ride’. I was horrified! Absolutely not! We will never encourage such behaviour. She meant no malice, just thought it would be cute, like many people do.
 
As a veterinary nurse with experience in dog behaviour it absolutely astounds me the things people expect their dogs to put up with from children. That is how children get bitten and dogs get put down.
 
Your dog can be the most placid dog in the world, the most predictable, sweet natured, ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’ kind of dog. All it takes is an ear infection you don’t yet know about, and a curious baby in the ‘grabbing’ stage, and you have a dreadful situation on your hands. Your dog can’t talk, and if in pain can react quickly to ‘make it stop’ the only way they know how. If this happened it wouldn’t be because they are an aggressive dog, but I guarantee they’d be at the vet being put to sleep the same day because they ‘snapped at the baby’.
 
I don’t know how many ‘cute’ videos I’ve seen on the internet of dogs tolerating completely unacceptable behaviour from children. And the parents commentating and encouraging from background. It makes my skin crawl. Do yourself a favour and learn about the subtle signs dogs do when they are nervous (google ‘calming signals’ or ‘fiddle behaviours’ in dogs). Then re-watch some of those ‘cute’ videos and see just how uncomfortable those dogs are with the situation being forced upon them.
 
I will never allow my children to climb on my dog, and their interactions will only be when Lulu chooses, not the other way around. I already put Lulu outside whenever the boys are eating because I know she is a fiend for food and it’s not a situation I want to put any of them in.
 
You know your dog best and can make decisions about the boundaries you put in place with between your dog and your kids, but PLEASE don’t allow your children to do whatever they want with the dog, and expect your dog to tolerate this. It’s not fair.
 
Dogs and kids can and should get along, but teach your children to respect dogs as beings not toys.

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DO....
-allow your baby and dog to interact (ideally only when the dog chooses, or is relaxed and comfortable).

-encourage "gentle pats" in safe areas, like the chest and side.

-use language around your baby that encourages respecting the dog as a member of the family. 

-give your dog space and attention away from the baby regularly.

-look for signs of nervousness from your dog when the baby is interacting and cease interactions if they show any signs (lip licking, looking away, yawning, whale eye etc).

-re-assess the boundaries you have put in place regularly, and change them when necessary.

DON'T!
-allow your baby to climb on the dog.

-force interactions between your dog and baby.

-let your baby pull or grab the dogs ears/tail/legs/face.

-ever leave the dog and baby unsupervised, particularly when there is food around. 



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