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It’s almost a saying in the Dog World – not quite, but almost – that babies make terrible dog owners. It’s the absolute truth, of course, but only in the same way babies make terrible drivers, terrible electricians, and terrible home decorators. The flip side to this is that dogs often make terrible pets for babies. It’s neither the baby’s or the dog’s fault – the baby doesn’t understand anything about dogs, and the poor dog is a dog. So if you’re going to be bringing a baby home, you’re going to have to do some work to ensure you don’t have cause to move your other baby out.
At first your baby is going to be minimally invasive, but once they start crawling and walking your dog will follow its lead. As your child grows and becomes more independent, your dog will get into more and more mischief simply by following your toddler around. Keep this in mind from the very beginning. It’s essential that you teach your child that the dog is not a toy, but a living thing, and to keep in mind that if your dog suddenly begins acting in new and exciting (and destructive) ways, it’s very possible they are simply playing with your child and mimicking the child’s behaviour. Teaching your child the right and wrong way to interact with the dog is the first step to a safer house.
Chances are your playtime with your dog so far has involved toys that are tossed or batted about, and your adorable puppy grabs them with their teeth. That’s instinctive for dogs, and the number one source of trouble between dogs and children. When a child waves their hands at the dog or dangles something, it’s natural for the dog to grab it with their teeth. Usually dogs have no desire or intent to harm, but do not understand that a baby is much more fragile than you.
First of all, if your dog has ever bitten you by accident, even without bad intent, keep it away from your baby. Good, innocent dogs sometimes get excited and snap with their jaws, and tiny baby hands and legs won’t fare well.
Secondly, start off with supervised interaction between your dog and the baby, and don’t hesitate to discipline your dog at the slightest provocation. Better that the dog be shy around your baby than overly exuberant. There is plenty of time for your child and the dog to bond and form a healthy relationship when your child is older and understands better what’s OK and not OK with the dog – for the moment, train your dog to be exceedingly careful around baby.
While some jealousy or instinctive distrust may colour the initial relationship between your dog and your new baby, it won’t take long for the dog to regard your child as part of its pack and treat it with the affection and protective instincts it has for you. Start off slow, pay attention, and put the effort needed into training the dog and you’ll see a sibling relationship thrive between them!
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