I used to work in animal rescue. I used to sit at the adoptions table at Petco or Petsmart and judge the couples that would come up and give me the "we had a baby" story. I vowed there was no way I'd ever dump my pets when kids came along. In many cases I do think people are doing that. But now, after having kids of my own I have to allow for it perhaps not being so black and white in every case. I still don't think dumping the animal is the answer. Being better prepared and more responsible is the answer.
I have twin 15 month old boys. They fall. They grab. They squeeze. Sometimes they bite. I worked around dogs for many years at vet clinics and at the teaching hospital at Texas A&M College of Vet Med. Good dogs bite. Stressed animals react in their most basic and natural way. You always hear "He's never bitten anyone before! I can't believe it!" Well I can. He doesn't understand that I'm trying to put this catheter in his leg for his own good. All he knows is a stranger is restraining and hurting him. It can be the same with kids. Plus, add to it that the kids are little creatures they now have to share you with.
I consulted with an animal behaviorist before the boys were born and implemented her suggestions long before the boys came home so that the changes to their world couldn't be associated with the intrusion of the pink screaming little bundles.
I want my boys to LOVE dogs. I want them to love all animals. On my "little boy to do list" is to have each boy adopt a young dog and take it though the Canine Good Citizen training course and then weekly visit nursing homes with their pup. There are so many lessons to be learned in that.
So I allow my boys around one dog at a time and very closely supervised. The boys need to learn proper behavior around dogs, not the other way around. My dogs are well mannered. My boys need to learn to be. I am still uncomfortable with them around other people's dogs until the boys learn to behave properly toward dogs.
My boys sleep in cribs. I let one of the dogs sleep in their room for all naps and sometimes through the night. This I hope builds a closeness for them in a situation where my boys can't overwhelm the dog or, as this dog trainer so perfectly puts it:
"What we forget is that all dogs, even good dogs, have limits to their tolerance. Every action by a child that surprises, frightens, annoys, hurts or otherwise bothers a dog is, essentially, a withdrawal from that “bank account” of goodwill. At some point this balance dips low, maybe on a bad day or maybe after an on-going history of incursions. Bam! That’s when you see the growl or snap or bite."
Click on the text above or here to read more of this or other posts from "Dogs and Babies" - an animal behaviorist who specializes in helping families with babies and young children live well with their family dogs.
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