It happened. The worst thing imaginable. Your beloved dog bites baby. It doesn’t get much worse, and it’s clear that this is a situation that absolutely cannot last.
What should you do when this happens? And more importantly, how can you prevent it? Most people don’t know it, but there’s point in your baby’s development when the potential for this to happen multiplies…and you need to be ready.
When Your Dog Bites Baby
In the last three weeks I’ve had a string of exasperating experiences that have highlighted for me once again the importance of preparing your dog for your baby’s arrival.
During this period I received six calls concerning exactly the same issue: a family dog who had previously shown no signs of distress around the baby suddenly “nipped” the baby in the face.
Everyone was shocked. After all, up until recently the dog seemed to have been okay with the little one.
Managing the Eight-month Threshold
So what happened? In each case the child had crossed the eight-month threshold and begun crawling. Especially crawling toward the dog and grabbing at it.
Apparently this behavior had come as a surprise to the dog who to date had only observed a swaddled infant held safely at arms length. Crawling with vigor and newfound independence, the once awkward and immobile infant now began encroaching on the dog’s space and sense of security.
The dog, in each case surprised and utterly unprepared for this turn of events, felt both its personal space and social status in the household threatened and decided to put the “little pup” in its place.
The result? Your dog bites baby and small punctures in the cheek. And owners worried about whether they could keep their beloved family pet.
How To Avoid Worst Case Scenarios
Tragically, due to a variety of circumstances in three of the cases I had to recommend re-homing the dog. The other three are works in progress. But in each case all of this was entirely preventable.
As I often tell people, from the time that you find out that you’re pregnant to the time your baby begins to crawl you have fully sixteen months to prepare your dog for what’s ahead.
A key part of that preparation is teaching your dog to accept childlike handling, making sure your dog understands its social place in your pack and has learned to look to you for direction in all things, and providing a “safe zone” to which your dog can retreat if she’s feeling a bit too pressured by baby’s presence.
In each of these six cases when I was consulted, unfortunately none of these elements were in place.
Getting Your Dog Ready for the Eight Month Threshold
Also, as all this was taking place I’ve been deeply immersed in the production of the companion video course to my book, Good Dog, Happy Baby, considering which segment to produce first. After these six incidents the answer was clear.
My first segment will revolve around how to teach your dog to accept a child’s encroachment and rough handling. Hopefully I will have it done in the next month or so and be able to make it available here.
After all, learning tolerance around this is the single biggest factor that can determine your dog’s future in your family. So please take it seriously.
Want to learn more about preparing your dog for the arrival of your baby? Check out my book: Good Dog, Happy Baby