Little One is on the move!!! Uhhhh….where’s the dog???

Last updated on March 12th, 2018 at 09:26 am

Baby Boy Playing with toy as puppy watchesThis is such an exciting time… and an exhausting one. You “safely introduced your dog to your new baby’ and established some guidelines to keep everyone safe (see ‘Your New Baby Safely Met Your Dog … Now What???) and so far everything has been going really well. Your baby is growing by leaps and bounds… and learning something new every day. But just as you started to get the new routine down pat, Mother Nature throws a monkey wrench into this perfect dynamic .Your child’s rate of development seems to be at warp speed, and before you know it, they have learned to crawl. In the blink of an eye they’ve gone from a very slow lobster crawl, to moving faster on hands and knees then you can on two feet! You just can’t seem to catch them! But there is a potential danger here…. The dog can… with ease!

As I did in my last article, I feel it is important to give you some insight into the dog’s mind, and also ask some very thought provoking questions to you, and then offer some ‘canine behavior’ awareness in more detail afterwards.

  1. What is the difference, in a dog’s mind, between a baby that ‘runs’ on all fours, and a pup that does the same thing, other than one has no fur or tail?
  2. How does the dog know the difference between baby’s toys and theirs? Both of their toys seem to be either hard plastic, soft plastic, or plush (stuffed).
  3. What sets off the ‘chase instinct’ in a dog?

So the answer to the first question is pretty obvious…. There is no difference in the dog’s mind. This is why it is so important that YOU teach them that there is a difference. When a pup wanders off, the mother dog picks them up by the scruff (the extra skin) on the back of their necks to bring them back to where they want them. So for this reason, it is important to still monitor their interactions, and make sure they are never alone together.

One of the things I teach my customers with infants is to really accentuate the “DOWN” command whenever they are around the baby. Now I do realize that some people say “DOWN” when a dog jumps on them, but I am referring to them physically lying down. (I often recommend to my customers to use the words “OFF” when a dog jumps, and “DOWN” to lie down, so they do not get confused.) This is especially important for two reasons: To make sure baby doesn’t get knocked over and hurt, but also, it helps to focus your dog. Dogs cannot multi-task; they can’t focus on your command and on the baby at the same time.

To teach “DOWN” first get your dog into a “SIT” position to start. Then, hold a treat between your thumb and pointer fingers, hold your palm facing the floor, and slowly lower your hand towards the floor, keeping the treat right in front of their nose. If they lose interest and look away, bring the treat back up to eye-level to re-capture their attention, and do it again, all the while saying, “DOWN” until they are fully lying down, and then tell them, “YES! GOOD DOWN!” and give them the treat.

I recommend that you practice this often, so when you give him the DOWN command and he is around the baby, he knows the command is not a suggestion or a request, but a direct order from his superior that must be obeyed immediately. To explain the importance of practicing this regularly, I ask my customers, “Why do they run fire drills in schools for the kids?” Because they don’t want to wait until a true emergency actually breaks out and ‘hope’ that the kids will know what to do! Think of how relaxed you will be if you know without a doubt that if you tell your dog ‘DOWN” he will do it immediately.

The second question is a bit trickier, but is important because for most of us, the saying “Possession is 9/10ths of the law” holds true. But to both dogs AND babies, possession is ten-tenths of the law. It can be potentially very dangerous for a baby to see a toy, assume it is theirs, and go to grab it… especially if it is in the dog’s mouth! The simplest solution would seem to be to keep the dog’s toys in one room, and the babies’ toys in another, but in reality, I have never found that to work. The baby goes through house with toys in their hand, and deposits them everywhere and anywhere, and the dog does the same in their mouths. At times, I arrive at a customer’s house, look around at the hundreds of toys scattered everywhere, and wonder if I myself could distinguish which toys belong to which species!

One trick I have given a few families that seems to work very well is to dip the toys belonging to the dog in some bullion soup. (For stuffed animals, just dip a small corner of it. That is sufficient for a dog’s sensitive nose.) This gives it an added flavor that they love, and they tend to play mostly with those. Just remember to wash and re-dip them weekly…. You don’t want them to get stinky or to attract bugs.  Another option is to get a wire rimmed basket for the dog’s toys and a toy chest for your child’s toys. Make sure the right toys go in each basket every night before bed, and get into that routine. When your child is a bit older, and can understand a bit better, (and no longer puts everything in their mouths) you can use a black magic marker to mark your child’s toy.

The final issue… baby moving at warp speed; crawling on all fours, can easily set off the ‘chase instinct’ in your dog. I have two cats. One of my cats is never bothered by the dogs… they never chase him. However, the other one is always being chased. Why is this? Because my male cat does not get nervous or scared by the dogs, and if they look or bark at him, he ignores them… so they leave him alone. My female on the other hand, gets scared and goes to run away… and the same dogs that ignored my male cat, go chasing after her. So how do we combat this? By reinforcing earlier commands with the dog… “GO TO YOUR PLACE” and “DOWN/STAY” are important ones to really enforce, but you can also add a new one: “IGNORE.”

To teach IGNORE, get your dog on a leash, put him in a down/stay position, and have someone roll a ball in front of him. If he goes to give chase, give a quick and firm tug on the leash and say, “IGNORE”. Do this a few times until he is completely non-reactive, and then either treat and praise, or play and praise with one of HIS toys. (I want to point out that at this point your baby is copying everything you do… so please remember, you’re “rolling the ball” to the dog… not throwing it. The last thing you want are items going airborne at your dog!)

In the end, adding a few new commands to your dog’s routine (and a few new tricks for you to try) is a great way to both make sure he behaves appropriately around your little one, and also make sure he continues to get the attention and mental stimulation he needs.  Happy dog…happy baby…safe home.

So I will wrap this post up a bit differently from my last ones… and ask your input. Apparently, I stumped some of the best trainers in the world by asking for their input on how they go about distinguishing a kid’s toy from a dog’s. So I would love to hear from those of you who have raised your kids (and your dogs) already through this stage…how did you successfully keep the toys separate???

About the Author

I trained as an EMT in NY, than recertified in Atlanta. I loved being an EMT and was involved with it for several years. I worked on the “Rainbow Response Unit” at Egleston’s Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, and when not on a call, worked in the PICU and NICU, which was both a blessing as well as a heartache because I learned and saw so much. Helping to create a child safety seat for ambulances was my way of making sure children who were already compromised health-wise, would not be put in any more danger. When I realiized I could no longer be an EMT due to medical reasons, I found an alternate outlet for my desire to nuture and protect; I became a dog trainer...something that was always a second love and passion for me. Now, whenever possible, I combine my passion for children and canines by working to make the world a safer place for both. Suzanne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

Comments

3 Responses to “Little One is on the move!!! Uhhhh….where’s the dog???”

  1. Holly says:

    Very interesting and so well-written article! You shed some light on this matter by providing all that information here! Thank you for sharing it, Man With Van Dartmouth Park Ltd.

    • Suzanne Hantke says:

      I am so glad you found it helpfully and informative Holly. I find the biggest ‘problem’ with canines and humans, is the lack of communication. They communicate, but very differently than we do. By learning about their body language and what it is telling us, and by understanding how they think, we can make sure interactions, whether with adults or children,, are safe and joyous ones…. as they should be.

  2. Don-David Lusterman says:

    What a wonderful presentation of this important topic — and written with such charm that is a delight to read. Many thanks

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