Yes, they can. All done now. Go read something else.
Okay, I’m kidding! You wouldn’t have clicked on this article if you didn’t have some concerns about bringing a baby into a house with a dog, or vice versa. I certainly think it can be done, and so does veterinarian Sophia Yin, who offers a wealth of suggestions for integrating babies and dogs.
Before we proceed further, though, I have to tell you that there is one exception – do not ever, ever think of bringing a baby and a wolf dog together. I talked a bit about this in my article Wolves and Wolf Hybrids as Pets, and I can’t stress enough that you can bring babies and dogs together – but wolves and hybrids are not dogs.
Together, But Apart
Dr. Yin points out, quite rightly, that you should never leave a dog of any breed alone with a child. You might think that it’s Rottweilers and Pit Bulls that present threats to young children, but that’s not always the case. Any dog, left alone with a child, can be a threat. In 2009, a child was killed by a Pomeranian – a small breed of dog that usually only weighs a few pounds. The dog entered the crib of a six-week old child, and essentially subjected the child to death by repeated bites. Any dog, of any breed, can be a threat to a child.
So, whatever breed of dog you have, the takeaway from this is that it’s fine to have them together, but if you are not there to supervise, then you have to keep them apart.
Why Would a Dog Do This?
To understand why dogs attack children, you have to think like a dog.
Here you are, Mommy’s bestest boy, loved and nurtured from the time you were a puppy. Now, Mommy has brought you a surprise. That little brother or sister you didn’t ask for and don’t want. When it squeals, your natural reaction is to jump on it and try to kill it – it’s prey. Then Mommy punishes you. What is this thing that is so much more important to her than you are? You don’t like it. You want it gone.Finally, you get so confused and so frustrated that you give in to your natural instinct, which is to bite.
And then Mommy takes you to the vet to be put to sleep because of something that is not your fault.
Let Him Know He’s Still Your Bestest Boy
Dogs feel jealousy just the way that humans do. It’s natural to want to give a whole lot of attention to a new baby, but don’t forget who was the first baby. It’s more important now than it ever was, to let your dog know how much you love him, and that he will always be your baby, no matter how many human babies you end up with.
I remember years ago reading an article in Time Magazine. I tried to find the link for you, but I can’t remember the title. It was something like “The Hate That Dares Not Speak its Name,” but vigorous Googling gave me nothing. Anyway, it was an article by this woman who had a baby, and said that she didn’t love her dog anymore. And not just that she didn’t love him – she hated him. That poor dog. That horrid woman!
Now is the time, more than any other, that you have to show your dog that he is loved. Remember, most dogs operate on about the same mental and emotional level as toddlers. If he thinks he’s being replaced, he’s going to feel very resentful, and that’s the danger point.
I’m childless by choice, and I’ve always put dogs first in my life. But I understand that when people have kids, they usually put them first. What this means is that the dog is going to have to get used to being second fiddle.
Now, think about how your dog feels when he’s with your kids. They cry. They whine. They pull your tail. They are beyond irritating. So, what you have to do is train your dog and your kids both to interact with one another.
Now, imagine that your kids stress your dog to the point where he shows his teeth. What are you going to do?
If you think the right answer is “I will punish the dog,” then you have failed big time. The dog has actually done a good thing – he has let your kids know that they are crossing the line. You don’t need to correct the dog; you need to correct your kids. This is because the next thing is going to be a well-deserved bite.Your kids need to know when they are being warned, and when they need to back off. A growl is a courtesy.It’s, “You are really bugging me, and if you don’t stop, I am going to have to take it up to the next level.”
Make Good Things Happen
Children and dogs get along best when they know that good things happen when they are with each other. If your dog is jealous of your baby, give him treats when the three of you are together. Cuddle together. Make happy time. If your dog associates your baby with good things, then you have set the foundation for a lifetime of love and happiness.
The Final Word
No matter how small your dog is, and no matter how gentle he seems, never leave your dog alone with a child. It’s not just Rotties and Pits you have to worry about. Any dog, of any size and any breed, can be a threat to a child. Train your kid, and train your dog too. There is a really good dog training book available for Kindle at Amazon, and it’s free.
What you want is good kids, and good dogs. And yes, they can coexist.