- Dogs are Pack Animals and see everyone else in their family as another pack member even babies and small children.
- An adult dog has no problems telling off a puppy for behaviour they do not approve of, however most children are not capable of taking the correction most dogs would use.
- If a dog lives in the house with you, you are starting to blur the lines of where the dog is in the Pack which makes following Pack Structure rules (see below) all that much more important.
- Aggression trainers with decades of experience all agree that you never trust any dog with a baby or small child. This is unfortunate because they become such close family friends. It just goes to show how careful one has to be around a small baby or child with a dog. My preference is to have the dogs off to the side while the baby is around. Begin teaching the dogs that the baby is going be higher in pack structure right from day one.
- Dogs that are high in energy and very smart tend to climb the pack structure hierarchy with a family. If you have a dog that is smart and energetic you need to follow pack structure rules even more carefully.
Have Pack Structure in Place:
This is extremely important in today’s society as many people have a tendency to humanize their dogs and they think that spoiling them is a good thing. The most unhappy dogs are spoiled, the happiest dogs are ones that have clear leadership and are expected to follow rules and as a bonus have some kind of a job. Treat training has become very popular and it does teach dogs behaviours very quickly, however if people only use treat training many dogs will learn that they only need to do as asked when they feel like it. You need to have consequences behind not following through on commands to really proof up obedience. It doesn’t have to be harsh or mean but a dog must always follow through on whatever command you give and never give a command that you can’t make the dog follow through on.
Here are the Pack Structure Rules and tips from Dog Squad trainer in Calgary:
- Eating – The Alpha/pack leader (you/the humans) is entitled to food first and before any other dog. Sometimes having scheduled feeding times and making the dog sit and wait for their food can help them to understand. However I often find dogs that are free fed often have the fewest problems with food around other dogs and children as it is a ready resource. Some dogs cannot have this luxury as they would overeat. In this case make sure they learn to sit back and let other dogs, people, cats, children etc. go near their food before they get to go for their food. Do controlled exercises with your children around your dog and consult a dog training expert if you feel at all uncomfortable. Otherwise ensure your dog’s feeding time is controlled. I have dealt with dogs biting children near a dog’s food dish on many occasions so be careful.
- Possessions – The Alpha is in control of all possessions. You may see a bunch of toys and a bunch of dogs and one dog hoards all of the toys. They are saying that they are the boss and this is all theirs. In a home ensure all toys and bones are picked up and out-of-the-way so the dog cannot get them whenever they want. You can bring them out as often as you like but ask for a sit, down or trick first. Then the dog earns the right to play with the toy and when they are done it gets picked up and put away again. If you are to play tug or fetch with your dog, your tug and fetch toys are always yours and they only come out when you want to play and they go away when you are done. If you leave the home and the dog is left alone you can leave toys out as they are next in charge.
- Attention – A higher ranking dog can always demand attention from a lower ranking dog but not the other way around. You may see this as “humping” or demanding play etc. In a human household this will be jumping, pawing, nudging, barking, whining, head on lap, jumping up on your lap etc. Do not allow your dog to demand attention. This is the rule that I find dogs place the highest value on and people give it out freely. Stroking for hours at a time is a primate thing not a canine thing. Keep attention to short amounts (10 seconds or less – if you want to pet something for hours I recommend getting a lazy tom cat). Some dogs will butt in for attention when you are giving attention to another dog or person. I never allow this and push that dog out-of-the-way. As the Pack Leader I will give attention to whoever I want and I will not let another dog decide that. This is often the thing that dogs will fight over the most is attention towards their human or other dogs. When a baby comes home you are going to be giving a lot of attention to what a dog sees as a pack member that should be much lower ranking than they are. This is why practicing “place” and self-control is a must.
- Greeting – The Alpha is the one that greets first and decides whether to accept or reject. So if your dog is allowed to run to the door first when people come over they can think they are higher ranking. The easiest way to start dealing with this is to tie them back away from the door (not baby gated) and if you have several dogs tie them away from each other so you can greet the calmest dog first and the others can’t butt in. Practice this a lot in a few weeks. Have multiple people come over daily and this will train greeting the quickest. If you span it out once every few days your dog may never learn to greet properly. Just imagine if you only practiced teaching your dog sit once every 4 days.
- Sleeping – The Alpha gets the highest and best resting positions. In a house this will be beds and furniture. I don’t recommend allowing dogs up on beds or furniture as this really blurs the lines of Pack Structure. Some dogs can get away with it for years and never have problems usually because they are an “Omega” which just always wants to follow. If you have a high energy and smart dog, then definitely do not allow them up on furniture. This is one clear way to show dogs that they are below children. The problem with allowing a dog up on higher resting places is that it may never seem like a problem until one incident down the road. Always remember that all of these dog attacks had multiple steps to lead up to that event. The media may say it was unprovoked and one said it may have been the dog trying to nurture the child but I suspect this is highly unlikely. The reason I want to point this out is that I don’t want people to think of it as a freak accident that is 1 in a million. In every case there are often multiple things that could have been done to prevent this and the only way to do so is to inform yourself with good information and stick to the rules. No parent knowingly does this so the more people learn the better.
- Walking – The Alpha walks up front and decides direction of travel. If your dog walks in front then they can definitely think they are the boss. I train dogs to walk on the right hand side a half step behind you. Traditionally it is the left side because of gun dogs. Most people are right-handed so rifle on your right and dog on your left. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone walking their dog with rifle in hand in the city. Most dogs I work with are reactive and you greet most other dogs and people on pathways and they pass on your left. Keeping a dog on your right keeps them protected, helps them to see you as the leader and trains them more quickly. Once a dog learns to walk a half step behind you that is when I find they clearly see you as the leader. You can follow all other rules but until you have walking under control you may have a struggle between you and your dog on who is pack leader.
How To Get Ready For A Baby With Your Dog(s)
1. Mimic your routine with a baby doll (changing diapers, breast-feeding, crying, putting to sleep, holding and talking to, crawling around, etc.) I went to Superstore and got a "Baby Alive" that cries, sucks, laughs and coos and brought it out around the dogs 2 months prior to babies arrival, holding it, talking to it petting it and making the sounds. At first the dogs were intrigued but then the novelty wore off.
2. Set up the baby equipment a month or two prior to babies arrival. Play pen, swing, high chair, stroller. Have all this equipment out so the dog(s) get used to seeing and smelling it. Use your doll with the equipment. Walk your dog with the stroller and the doll.
3. Get the dog(s) used to the baby's scent. Once baby is born bring one of babies items into the house first and allow the dog to sniff it. Before baby is born use baby powder and lotions to mimic some of the smells that will be new to your home. Place the diapers and wipes on the doll and/or around the baby equipment to get the dog(s) used to the smells.
4. If you are considering having children, ensure your dog is very much under control with obedience and self-control towards anything the dog desires ie. will wait for food, will watch other dogs run passed while sitting, doesn't rush the door or steal attention, etc.
5. Do things to your dog that a child might do such as poking, pulling tails, prodding, crawling up quickly to the dog, pulling hair etc. I like to do more to a dog than a child ever would such as holding them upside down, pulling a leg, walking them around holding both back legs, rolling the dog on their back or side and laying on top of the dog. If your dog struggles with any of this be careful as they are definitely not suited for being around children. You should be able to do whatever you want and have your dog be calm and quiet with no backlash. Dogs with high pain tolerance do much better around children. Dogs with low pain tolerance are not suited to be around children.
6. Teach and Practice a good solid “Place” command in which you can command your dog to go to their place and they will stay there until they are released. Sometimes the baby will take precedence and you do not want your dog pestering you or the child. Have a place in the house that is strictly for the baby and dogs do not go and vice versa in case each needs their own time.
7. Plan out how you will exercise your dog. Do you have enough time for the physical and mental needs of your dog when the baby comes? Having both is a lot of work so be fair to everyone. Plan for a dog walker or child care to meet the needs of both.
Check out dog trainer Cesar Milan's tips for introducing baby to dog.