I am a firm believer in books. What can’t be learned from a trip to a bookstore or library?! While there are a multitude of pregnancy/baby books out there… and probably almost as many dog books…I was surprised to find very little published on preparing dogs for babies. And when I say “very little”, I mean literally one book.
Some Googling and a few searches on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble’s website led me to Child-Proofing your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Child in Your Life by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. The title sounded perfect! This had to be exactly what I was looking for!
Overall, though, this book was a disappointment. That’s not to say that I would recommend expectant parents to read it (only a short 88 pages, so you wouldn’t be wasting much of your time); it’s just that most of the information was more common sense than the expert advice I was expecting. There were, however, a few very insightful hints and suggestions sprinkled in…along with a few points that I completely disagree with.
The underlying theme of the book was spot on – most of the problems that you have with your dog (baby or not) are simply a result of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Kilcommons and Wilson do a wonderful job of explaining a growl. “A growl is due largely to confusion…” and does not mean your dog wants to harm your child. It probably means that crazy kid is doing something that your dog hasn’t seen you do and can’t quite make sense of it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have a Cujo on your hands.
Another point that they repeat over and over, throughout the book, in almost every chapter (which I think is a point worth repeating!) is you should NEVER leave a dog along with a baby/child. It doesn’t matter how wonderfully fabulous your dog is or how angelic your perfect child is…things happen. (Not necessarily bites!) Do not…even for 5 seconds…go in the other room and leave a baby and a dog alone. Just don’t do it! Just don’t!
Now, the biggest issue I have with this book is how it discusses getting rid of your dog (this topic is actually brought up multiple times) and euthanizing your dog if he or she is not getting along with your bundle of joy. Do I believe that in the HISTORY of ALL dogs and babies there has NEVER been a dog so aggressive that they cannot live around children? Of course I don’t! But I DO believe that these instances are so unbelievably rare it is not worth mentioning (again, MULTIPLE TIMES) in an 88 page book for the general public. The fact that putting a dog down is even touched upon is ludicrous.
That being said…there were some “Wow! I never even though of that!” moments that I had while reading the book. Once I read them, they seemed like such common sense, but I honestly hadn’t thought of them before. Expectant parents too busy to read this whole book – consider this the Cliff’s Notes:
- Never play aggressive games – Luckily, this has always been a rule in my house! Never ever EVER play tug-of-war or wrestling games with a dog. (In general, you never want them to think they can challenge you physically.) When you need to take something out of a dog’s mouth, you don’t want them to pull at it and think you are trying to have fun. (Anyone who has tried to retrieve a favorite sock out of their dog’s mouth can attest to that!) You never want a dog to mistake a child’s hug or rough handling is an attempt to start a wrestling match.
- Do not call the baby a nickname you have assigned your dog – I had honestly never thought of this one! My husband and I have taken to calling Amigo “baby boy.” “Oh, our little baby boy!” we will coo when he is doing something especially adorable. Well, the book warns, don’t be surprised if you are cooing “My little baby boy!” over your new son and your dog jumps right in. The pup thought you were calling him!
- Watch the toys you buy – My husband and I recently cracked up when registering at Target – they had a baby toy that looks EXACTLY like the “Buffy ball”. We of course realized that we wouldn’t be putting that toy on our wish list. Kilcommons and Wilson also suggest a “which toy is yours?” game where you place dog and baby toys side by side on the floor…and give praise and treats when your pups brings you the correct toy when asked. So simple…but genius!
- Be a baby yourself – From what I hear, kids and babies are pretty loud and unpredictable. I’m pretty sure they don’t even know the proper way to pet a dog! Of course, teaching your toddler to be respectful and gentle with animals will be your responsibility, but until they understand all that your poor pooch (just like you!) is going to have to learn to live with some unpleasant feelings and sounds. So, go ahead and practice pokes, ear pulls, hugs, loud noises, etc. (of course without hurting the dog! Remember, baby isn’t going to have much muscle behind all those motions.) Always let your dog retreat (whether practicing or when baby is home.) Never force interaction between 2-legged and 4-legged child…you don’t want your dog to ever feel trapped.
Overall, Childproofing You Dog reminds us our dogs have the instincts of an animal…but the personalities of one of us crazy humans. You’ve had 9 months to mentally prepare yourself, but their world is going to be turned upside down when you walk in with your new child. Maybe Kilcommons and Wilson have the right idea about oversimplifying things and relying on common sense – all you really need to do is put yourself in their
If you have any other suggested reading on the subject of preparing dogs for the arrival of a new baby…please share!