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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kids & Dogs

After hearing the horrible recent news of a 7 month old killed by the family dog here in Maine, it got me thinking about my own habits at home with my kids and my dog.

Let's start from the beginning;

Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby & Introducing Baby:

Just like every baby is different, every dog is also different, and may require more or less coaxing when it comes to introducing a new baby. Generally, near the end of your pregnancy, it is a good idea to wash a few outfits and blankets in the detergent you plan to use for the baby, and leave them around the house for the dog to get used to. What we did for my blind dog, was also placed one of those blankets on the floor and anytime he came near it, we told him to 'leave it' so that he wouldn't step on the baby when he recognized that smell on the floor.

Keep your dog's schedule as much the same as possible. Hire a dog walker to make you and your family's life easier those first few weeks if you need to. But keep walking and feeding times as much the same as possible.

When you come home from the hospital, have your dog smell the blanket that was on the baby first, and then allow the dog to sniff the baby. The majority of dogs will get used to this new creature in the house rather quickly.  Dogs that need additional training should consult a professional trainer in your area, and you can also use Good Owners, Great Dogs for quick tips.

Family Dogs In General

Not just the "high risk" dog breeds require professional training. In my opinion, whether you have children or not, any dog should have (at minimum) the training required to complete the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.  Higher risk breeds, besides needing knowledgeable and committed owners, need continued training to ensure their good behavior.

Proper training of any dog would include getting them used to a certain degree of ear touching, foot touching, petting while eating, taking toys away, etc. All things kids will eventually do. 

You should NEVER leave a child alone with any dog(s).

my little spiderman and one of our dogs (which now resides with his dad), Huxley a Great Dane 
How does MY family handle our dog?

Our dog Mackey, has her Canine Good Citizen certificate. Being a veterinary technician, she has come to work with me almost every day for her first 5 years. She has been well socialized with people, as well as with other dogs in dog daycare. Thankfully, she is an extremely apathetic dog and can well tolerate any kind of childish behavior! :)

However, this is where I think I go wrong. Having read the recent fore mentioned story of the infant killed in a dog attack, it made me realize a few things;

- I do occasionally leave my kids alone with the dog.
I run into the kitchen to make that extra cup of coffee, or prepare a bottle, etc. while both kids are in the living room with the dog. (now mind you, my apartment is NOT large. at all. ) But nonetheless, it doesn't even register with me sometimes to pay attention to where the dog even is. She spends the majority of her days lounging around and most days I barely notice her presence except for when she's whining at the door.

- I take advantage of the fact that I do not have a 'high risk breed', and assume that my dog would never hurt anyone. But the fact  is, she technically could.

- I let the dog lounge on the furniture, and beg from the table, and sleep on the kids bed. I let the baby feed her from the highchair, and the kids constantly steal the dish from her while she's eating.

That being said, my own dog is tolerant of anything. She gets her ears pulled, they attempt to ride her, they lean on her, the baby uses her as another piece of furniture, her feet get grabbed, and she nonchalantly stares at me when they steal her food :)

photo of Gwynndolynn Smith, courtesy of Portland Veterinary Specialists

Personally, there are certain 'high risk' breeds I feel more comfortable with than others. I would own a Pit bull, a Doberman, or a Rottweiler in a heartbeat. I (again, personally) would not own an Akita, a Chow Chow, or a Shar pei. Just me.

I can tell you, in the 12 years I've been in veterinary medicine. I've only been bitten by a dog once. It was a Golden Retriever.

What kind of dog (s) do you have and how do you handle your kids interaction with them?


  1. That high risk list is amusing as my MIL has a German Shepherd... all be it she is 16 now and can't hear but is the most placid dog I've met. Being long haired she gets her hair tugged, her ears/eyes poked and generally tormented by my 2 yr old who loves to share her food with her. We, on the other hand, had a chihuahua... yes HAD. The 2nd time she tried to properly bite my 2 yr old she had to go. It's funny that I'm more comfortable with my daughter being around a larger dog than a smaller one!!

  2. haha, in the veterinary industry we call the little dogs "land sharks" :) tee hee :)