Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Deadest Horse of Them All: Dogs & Kids

By Eryka Kahunanui, KPA CTP, OSCT

Reposted with permission from

“There is really only one absolute rule in our home,” I tell K’s new nanny, “Baby and dogs are to never interact. Ever.”

The expression that covers her face is a reaction I see all the time from parents with dogs. It’s one filled with questions: Are the dogs “aggressive”? Does that mean they’ll bite me, too? Is that just while she’s gone? Are the dogs even safe to be around? My dog would never do anything to hurt us…

I explain to her, “I’m working on their tolerance for her behavior. We’ve made some significant progress so I need to make sure I can trust everyone before I will allow interactions without my supervision.”

Call me paranoid. Call me a helicopter mom. It’s a rule I will not bend.

In my profession, I hear all sorts of love stories involving children and dogs. One man’s dog guarded their newborn baby from anyone who tried to come near. Another woman told me how her dog would endure being placed in a bucket by her three-year old nephew. And better still, the stories of the dogs that let kids lie, ride or [insert verb here] on them. “The kids could do anything to this dog – he just stands there and takes it.” I always have to play along and force laughter.

Usually, it’s the dog having to endure the child. Never have I heard a parent proudly exclaim,”My child was so good! She just sat there as our puppy pulled on her hair!” And that example isn’t a stretch: almost all of my clients with puppies and children complain of puppy pulling and biting little one’s hair.

Look, I get it. A dog’s loyalty is one of their most endearing qualities. They love us despite us. So when we have children, the one thing we love more than ourselves, we want to know that our dog will be just as loyal to them, if not more.

But we forget our relationship had to be earned with our dogs and it doesn’t just transfer over. It’s fair to assume your dogs will need time to form their own relationship with your child. My kid has to earn my dogs’ trust and so far, so good. And it might not even be the relationship you are dreaming of.
"I’m very aware that it may take a long ass time – as in 5+ years – before my child fully understands how to respect a creature with steak knives in its mouth."
My job until then is to convince my dogs that I will be a fair and consistent referee. I need to convince them that “I got this” – they don’t need to intervene because I will keep her away. Right now, it seems like she’s always crawling in their direction. At first, the dogs would immediately jump up and go somewhere else. After weeks of me intervening, they’ve come to trust that I won’t let her get near them and now they won’t even wake up from their slumber.

And I’ll say right now: I’m sure your dog is the exception. But what does it hurt if you take the extra precaution and just take it slow? Play your cards right and your dog and child will have many years to grow up alongside each other and get to know one another. Isn’t that worth a slow introduction in the beginning?

Read more from Eryka

Check out the Babysitter Rules from Doggone Safe

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