Saturday, January 26, 2013

Case File: Help! Is My Dog a Threat to My Crawling Baby?

We got an email from a parent, with concerns about her newly crawling baby and her two dogs.
Dear Doggone Safe: We have two dogs: one is a certified therapy dog and one is a rescue coon hound. We had a baby this summer and she is 8 months old now and starting to crawl. We have researched information before she was born about dogs and babies. And we have set up gated areas and dog safety protocols in our house. Always supervision etc.  But I have a question that I can't find an answer or help with..... My daughter likes to crawl now - everywhere- and even when the dogs are sleeping on their dog beds she tends to crawl right to them and wants to touch them -their tails, faces, ears etc. I am a first time mom - so I redirect her to something else... say no.... when we are holding her we allow her to pet our therapy dog on her side/ back etc., to try to show her the correct way... although she is very young still to understand. I am just not sure how to teach her at this age how to give the dogs space and respect. Is what I am doing correct? Should I be doing more?  Is it just a matter of constant redirection of her to something else when she crawls to the dogs? Even our therapy dog gets annoyed after awhile of course. I don't want to have to ban the dogs from the living room completely I just need some advice or reassurance of what we are doing so we establish good behaviors from both our daughter and our dogs. Thanks for any help you can give me!
We passed this question on to our dog and baby expert, dog behavior consultant Jennifer Shryock. Jen will of course offer one on one consulting to make sure and get all the details so that she can offer help, but there are probably many others who have the same issues.

If you have a newly crawling baby, you know that your life has become much more complicated! No longer does the baby stay where she is put, contentedly watching from the safety of a play pen or other piece of baby apparatus. Now the baby is mobile and she wants to explore and interact with everything, including the dogs. Now you find yourself following the baby around and finding out that even though you thought you had thoroughly baby-proofed, there are sill hazards that the baby will undoubtedly uncover.

There is no such thing as a 100% baby-proofed dog. No matter how sweet and gentle your dog is, there comes a point where he will not tolerate any more from the baby. Hopefully at this point he just relocates to a safe area that you have provided for him, but he may decide that he has no choice but to growl or bite if the baby persists.

Jennifer Shryock gives this advice to parents of crawling babies:
At this stage moving babies look quite different from other humans and most dogs are uncomfortable. This period is a time of intense management and setting up parent guided interactions.  I use the phrase "invites decrease frights and bites"  as crawling babies  approaching a dog makes dogs uncomfortable and is a leading cause for injury at this age. 
Here are two prerecorded webinars produced by Jen that will help answer many of the questions that parents of crawling babies often ask:

Webinar presented to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers

My Dog Growled at My Baby... Help!:

For more information or to arrange a consultation please visit Family Paws Parent Education


  1. perfect time to teach your child boundaries. if your furbaby is in his/her crate then the child needs to be taught to leave it alone. children need to be taught what they can and cannot touch. you wouldn't let them touch . hot oven... the same method goes for an animal.

    1. education is everything, however, crawling babies are not yet ready to understand those kinds of boundaries.