According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 440,000 children are treated for dog bites every year. In some of these cases, the dog lives in the household. As soon as your baby begins to crawl, take these steps to protect both your dog and the baby from injury and emotional trauma. With the right steps, everyone, including your pets, can be happy and safe.
It isn’t necessary to separate your dog from your baby at all times. They need to get used to each other. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to give your dog a break at some point. Before your baby begins to crawl, teach your dog to go to his safe spot on command. Choose a space that is outside baby’s reach and tell your dog to go to his spot. Use treats to show him where to go and give him praise when he obeys. With the right training, your dog will retreat to this spot on your command when your little one gets out of control.
When your baby reaches the crawling stage, he or she is old enough to begin learning simple commands. As your dog and baby interact, emphasize the use of “gentle touch,” showing your little one what you expect while saying the words. A young child is not too young to learn that dogs are not for pulling, poking or riding on. Also teach your child not to bother the dog while he is eating or sleeping.
Baby gates are for more than just keeping baby away from the stairs. Use them to separate areas of your home so your dog and baby can co-exist peacefully. When baby is moving around one room, use the gate to keep the dog to other areas of the home. Removable gates are a great option because you can use them in multiple areas of the home as needed.
Pet doors enable your dog to let himself out whenever he needs it, especially during those times when you are busy with baby and can’t let him out yourself. However, when baby is mobile, he or she may discover this door and attempt to copy the dog. To avoid this problem, secure the pet door when baby is crawling around. You will need to pay attention to your dog’s cues and let him out when he needs it, but it is worth it for your child’s safety. Your dog can learn to hold it until you are able to let him out, as long as you don’t wait too long.
Perhaps most importantly, never force a relationship between your crawling baby and your dog. Babies are naturally curious about pets and want to play with them. Some dogs require more time to get used to a baby than others. If you want to make sure everyone is comfortable in the home, including your pets, just let nature take its course. As long as you closely supervise the interactions between your dog and baby, they will become friends eventually.