Last month I posted about the importance of not just supervising dogs and babies together, but also acting as an advocate for your dog in order to prevent dog bites. Because I have a cat, 2 dogs, and a toddler, I know that the gap between how things “should be” and real life can feel pretty far apart sometimes. In order to help bridge that gap, I’ve come up with a few, fairly simple rules, so that no matter how chaotic things get on any given day, my whole family can be on the same page. I can also easily share these rules with any babysitters, friends, or family members that are in my house and might help out with my little menagerie.
1. Dogs may approach babies, but babies may not approach dogs.
Number one, most important rule is dogs may approach babies, but babies may not approach dogs. If only this rule is followed, everyone will be safe. Because my toddler is pre-verbal, all adults have to watch all the time to make sure this rule is being followed. This leads to Rule #2:
2. Dogs and babies never have unsupervised time together.
If I can’t be in the room to watch who is approaching whom, then dogs and babies cannot be together. That means I need a lot of Rule #3:
3. Use doors and baby gates to keep everyone safe and separate.
Getting through my tiny New York City apartment can resemble a corporate challenge obstacle course: avoid the baby toys and dog toys, go over the gate or figure out how to open the childproof (and tired-mommy-proof latch), squeeze around the crate, and so forth. Alas, we will not be invited to be photographed for Better Homes and Gardens, but we will keep everyone safe.
Some Pro Tips: if a baby is approaching a dog, and you can’t get there to stop the baby, recall the dog. Both my dogs have way better recall than my toddler. In my anecdotal experience, 99% recall (I don’t think there’s such a thing as 100%) is the best behavior to work on with dogs for so many reasons. Toddler protection is just one of these. Make sure that dogs always have an exit. When dogs feel cornered, they are more likely to bite in order to escape. Recall your dog before they get “stuck” in a corner, behind a piece of furniture, or in their crate.