This post is dedicated to Buddy, a male boxer in California who was tragically murdered by his own human as a cruel punishment. After he “nipped” at his human’s baby (no real physical injury), he was taken out to the field and brutally KILLED. Although I never met Buddy, I was told by humans who knew him to be a very sweet, good dog. He was, nevertheless, the first child or “practice baby” of his humans. I may never fully know all the details, but I do know that a dog does NOT deserve to be abused or murdered period. There are humane ways to deal with a dog’s undesirable or “bad” behavior. May Buddy rest in peace. May his wrongful death inspire us to spread the word so that another dog doesn’t suffer or die for the same reason. Please continue reading for tips on introducing a new baby or child to your dog.
ARRFF! It’s common for humans to give their all to their fur babies until their “real” baby arrives. Many young couples opt to get a dog or cat as a “practice baby” before they start a “real” family. Disturbingly, such practice typically ends up in neglect and/or eventual surrender of the innocent animal. Preparation for the introduction of a new family member is imperative for a healthy and rewarding relationship between your human child and furkid. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when introducing a newborn baby or any child to your dog:
#1 Expect a transitional period
Whether your dog is a big dog like a boxer or small dog like me, a healthy relationship between your four-legged pal and a new pack member doesn’t happen overnight. Acquainting your dog to a new member of the family takes time – PERIOD. Allow your dog to sniff the baby and get used to his/her smell and overall presence before a closer introduction. Don’t expect your dog to automatically know NOT to do certain things to your baby that are deemed “unacceptable” or “bad” by you (e.g. jumping, nipping, barking, etc.). The introduction should be thought out carefully and strategically way before your baby’s arrival. With a new member joining the pack, your dog needs ample time to adjust to the new surroundings and figure out the new pack order.
#2 Don’t be one-sided
Be FAIR – it shouldn’t be just about the baby, especially if the baby is unknowingly doing something to aggravate the dog. Learn to see BOTH sides. It’s heartbreaking when I hear humans say that “it’s just a dog” or “my baby always comes first,” which implies that human life is undoubtedly much more valuable. Animal abuse directly stems from such thoughts of human superiority. Dogs feel emotions just like humans; they will feel sad, upset, and jealous that they are losing your attention.
#3 Treat your dog like a REAL member of the family
Dogs love YOU unconditionally (even more so than the people in your life) so it’s only fair that you treat them like REAL members of the family. Be compassionate, empathetic, and patient during the transitional period and onward. Please understand that dogs thrive on routines, which are likely disrupted when the new baby arrives. They will be confused and upset in the beginning that they’re not taken out on their usual walks or playtime. Try your best to keep your dog’s exercise routine and lifestyle as unchanged as possible. Get help from your family members or hire a dog walker if you’re unable to do everything yourself.
Just a reminder, real family members don’t live outside, in the garage, in crates a.k.a. cages, in the heat or cold; they live freely and comfortably INSIDE with the family with plenty of opportunities to go OUTSIDE for exercise and fun.
#4 Teach BOTH the baby and dog to respect and be gentle with each other
My human is VERY protective of me around children, and for good reasons. Sadly, I’ve experienced abuse and teasing from children as young as 2-years-old. I was slapped on the head by a toddler who (per his parent) just wanted to say “hi,” chased around and teased by babies and small children, and manhandled by obnoxious grade-school kids (who wanted to hug and carry me like a stuffed animal).
Let me tell you that it is not FUN. It is a nightmare. Seemingly “innocent” or “harmless” acts of children can be terrifying for animals. And sure, we’ve heard plenty of one-sided stories of “vicious” dogs biting children, BUT I can assure you that many more cases of animal abuse go unreported or even unrecognized because animals do not have a voice. Hence, parents must teach respect and boundaries when introducing any baby or child to a dog.
#5 NEVER punish your dog physically
Regardless of the circumstances, please NEVER hit, slap, kick, punch, poke, or use any physical force against your dog. Animal abuse is for cowards – plus it’s ILLEGAL! Don’t leave them outside the backyard, lock them up in the garage, or crate/tether them indefinitely so that they are out of sight, out of mind. Yelling or screaming is also an ineffective, emotionally abusive way to train; dogs only become fearful and don’t necessarily understand what they did was “wrong.”
Animals are innocent beings and deserve compassion. PLEASE USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT to train your dog. If the undesired behavior persists, please consult a professional dog trainer or behavioral specialist. Do NOT teach your children that animal abuse or neglect is acceptable or normal, even in the form of punishment. The future of animal welfare is in the hands of children so let’s endorse humane treatment of animals, particularly dogs and cats who are beloved members of the family.
#6 Recognize that dogs usually do NOT like to be hugged or carried (so STOP your children from constantly doing so)
Based on their body language, you don’t need to be a dog whisperer to know that dogs generally do not like hugs, particularly from rough children who treat them like toys. For dogs, hugs are uncomfortable but they learn to tolerate them from people they know (probably because they don’t have a choice). Most dogs, myself included, run away from hugs whenever possible. The problem is that babies and children love hugging or carrying them around like stuffed animals, but yet, dogs dislike such treatment (like any other obnoxious prank), and oftentimes, rather be left alone.
When enough is enough, some dogs will snap due to frustration and annoyance, and then, all of a sudden, the dog is deemed “aggressive” and must be put down or surrendered. Does that sound fair at all? Parents, please look at both sides and first ask yourselves WHY the dog behaved a certain way. Again, teaching respect for animals is KEY when introducing a baby or child to your dog.
#7 Recognize that mouthing or nipping is a normal dog behavior
Dogs mouth or nip as a way to learn about humans. Generally, such acts are “not aggressive” behavior as they are normal dog behavior. As a responsible dog owner, please do your research to find out why a dog would “nip” or act “aggressively.” In order to stop any “unwanted” behavior, you need to first understand from their point of view and then teach them proper manners, again, through positive reinforcement. Please keep in mind that dogs may bite if they feel fear or frustration (e.g. from tormenting or teasing children), and yet, this goes back to teaching both the baby and dog to respect and be gentle to each other.
Read more about nipping HERE.
#8 Never leave them alone unsupervised
This part is crucial in introducing a new baby or child to your dog. Always supervise playtime, even if you feel that your child and dog get along well. Never leave your dog alone with your baby, especially in the first 9 to 12 months. This is to protect BOTH family members until trust is built.
#9 Don’t give up on your dog
Just like human babies, dogs are lifelong commitments and should not be treated as if they were disposable. Don’t surrender or dump them in the middle of nowhere as a solution to your problems. Be a better human. You decided to get a dog just like you decided to have a baby – LIVE with your life decisions. Again, the transitional period is always tough. However, once the routine, familiarity, and boundaries are established, your furkid and child can live happily as siblings. Family members don’t give up on each other – instead, they always have each other’s back. Now that’s a pack!
#10 Recognize dog behavioral signs
Learn to read your dog’s body language to make necessary interaction changes during the transition. Educate your children early on to recognize dog behavioral signs so they learn to respect their furry siblings and give them space.
*Note – lists are not all inclusive
- Relaxed body
- Relaxed eyelids and gaze
- Relaxed mouth (loosely closed or slightly open)
- Upright tail (exemplifies confidence)
- Wagging tail (bear in mind that it doesn’t always mean that they’re happy – it just means they’re excited)
- Sleeping on back with paws up (worry-free as this is their most vulnerable position)
- Flattened ears
- Stiff tail (between hind legs) or lowered tail
- Crouching down (in fear)
- Licking lips (with no food around)
Stressed or tense dog
- Pacing around
- Shaking (when it’s not cold)
- Licking lips (with no food around)
Sad or depressed dog
- Sleeping more than usual
- Sad eyes
- Loss of interest in food and in general
- Paw licking
- Withdrawal or in hiding
- Dropping ears (farther back)
Mad or upset dog
- Flattened ears
- Turns back on you
- Walks away from you
- Licking lips (with no food around)
- Showing teeth
- No eye contact
- Stiff body
So there you have it, escapaders – 10 tips for introducing a baby or child to your dog! As the bond between humans and dogs is undeniable, your furry and human children will thank you for incorporating these tips. Find out more about what you should teach children about animals HERE.
*Although this post is written specifically for dogs, some of the content can also apply to cats. Cats are family too!
My cousins Choo and Sonny!
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob