Dogs, babies, young children and safety is the first in the series of Rosecroft Health & Safety’s “Health and Safety at Home” series. Pregnant with a dog at home you need to prepare for your new arrival? Do you have babies or small children at home and thinking of getting a dog? Here we speak to Clare Grierson, expert animal behaviourist and trainer at Muddy Mutleys about all things dog, baby and small children to help your family and dog healthy, safe and happy.
Text for this blog post has been taken from an interview with Clare. You can listen to the full interview – Dogs, Babies, Young Children and Safety – in SoundCloud.
Dogs behaviour can change when you’re pregnant?
Dogs can and do pick up on changes in body language, mood, body shape and hormones. They can become unsettled. They may show this by weeing, chewing, hyperactive greetings and other changes in behaviours.
Muddy Mutleys information sheet gives more information on this.
Preparing your dog for your baby’s arrival?
Up until your baby comes along, often your dog has been your baby. It’s a massive change for dogs to adapt and get used to. The attention a new baby and young children require means your dog won’t get the attention it’s been used to.
It is important to get your dog used to a flexible routine. Make sure your dog gets everything they need. Take them for walks on different routes, take them on shorter walks, get them used to spending time alone. While we would love to take our dogs everywhere us there may be more times than there used to when they can’t come.
Noises and equipment
Noises and items in the house change. You can prepare your dog by getting it used to the paraphernalia, sounds and noises that go with having a baby in the house. The Dogs Trust‘s website includes videos and other really useful help and advice. Soundtracks of babies crying, laughing and other sounds are available free on YouTube.
Muddy Mutleys information sheet on Introducing a new baby and a pet is a good free resource.
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Muddy Mutley’s advice is to avoid the scenario where puppies and newborns are in a home if at all possible. Both need a lot of attention and different attention. If you are going to do it, or have to – get organised. Think about how you will manage both and get to puppy training!
Differentiate between food and toys belonging to dogs and children?
Dogs carry things, find things and show things off, whether its toys, sticks or other “finds”. They protect what they value such as toys, food and other objects. If a child tries to take a toy, food or other item from a dog when the dog perceives it at theirs, the dog may protect it and behave aggressively – frightening or even biting or mauling the child.
It is important to manage the environment so mistakes can’t happen. Dogs must have their space where they feel safe and can play, eat and chew. Children must also have their safe space.
Differentiating between what belongs to dog and what belongs to human is also needed outside the home . Dogs taking food and toys from unknown children or helping themselves to strangers’ picnics in the park may not end well.
Recognising when a dog is unhappy?
Never leave a child unsupervised with a dog, even if it is your dog and a much loved and trusted family pet. Children don’t recognise when a dog is unhappy and cannot protect themselves. All animals can be unpredictable. If you are in the park, always ask a dog owner if it’s safe to approach their animal.
In terms of behaviours a dog might display when they are unhappy, these may include:
- Showing teeth
- Shrinking back
- Hips lowered
- Tail underneath them
- Aeroplane ears
- Ears pinned back
This is not a comprehensive list. Just because a dog is licking it does not mean it is unhappy. The point is that dogs are great communicators and it is important for us to get to know and understand our dog’s body language.
Some reasons a dog may behave aggressively towards a child is because they are hungry, thirsty, the child is coming into their face, they are in pain, not well or there is a history of a child taking away toys or food.
Some human food is toxic for dogs?
Yes, everyday food for us can be toxic for dogs. These include:
- Onion, garlic and chives
- Macadamia nuts
- Corn on the cob
- Artificial sweetener
- Cooked bones
- Grapes and raisins
Can dog poo make you blind? and other essential poo information
Dog poo can carry parasites and diseases that may affect some people causing nasty illnesses which may lead to blindness if not treated straight away. Dog poo can also contain medication, if a dog is taking medication. It is important to clear up after your dog straight away and carry hand sanitiser. Don’t put your hands near your eyes or mouth and wash or santise your hands straight after coming into contact with dog poo.
Poo is processed food
Poo is also processed food. Dogs may eat it if they are not getting the nutrition they need. Their mothers may teach them to eat it as a way of cleaning up. It does contain nutrients and dogs don’t have the taste buds we do. For this reason it is really important to clean up any dog poo before your dog does.
This applies to all poo including that of your baby or young child. A dog may perceive a nappy to be food – a resource for them to be protective over – and a baby or small child cannot protect themselves. Good training and management is essential.
How old should a children be before a family gets a dog?
Muddy Mutleys advise that children are old enough to know how to behave around a dog, help look after them and enjoy their new pet. They think around 8-10 years is a good age for children.
Consider your lifestyle
Both children and dogs need time. Before bringing a new dog into your family life consider the reasons you are getting a dog and look at your lifestyle? Do you have time to exercise, train, groom, feed and love your dog amongst all the other commitments you have. Can you arrange for other people to help you? What happens when you go on holiday?
What breed is best for children?
It is important to research into breeds and find out their characteristics and needs to help you determine if you can meet that dog’s needs and it might be right for your family. However, while some breeds may have characteristics or temperaments that work better with children, not every dog is the same. Dogs, like people, are also products of their environment. A dog’s behaviour may be affected by past experiences of mistreatment, abandonment or trauma. It is important to know as much as about a dog as possible before homing it.
Ask for help and advice
Muddy Mutleys and other animal behaviourist and trainers can discuss this with you. The pros and cons as well as adjustments you will need to make to your life before making that final decision.
Where to get your dog
Muddy Mutleys advise finding out as much as you can about a dog. At the moment dog theft is a big thing and dogs are offered for sale on websites often within hours of being stolen.
Other advice is to check the Kennel Club for reputable breeders. Check breeders thoroughly and only go to someone who is recommended to you if possible. Meet the mum and find out as much as you can about the dad. Ask to see the dog’s Hip and Elbow scores.
Hip and Elbow Scores
The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association advise breeders to only use dogs who score highly on the Hip and Elbow Scoring Schemes set up by them – As a result of domestication and inbreeding, many dogs sadly suffer from defective joints. This scheme helps to reduce these problems.
Make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting and the place you get the dog offers support.
Good rescue centres ensure the right dogs go to the right people with the right support. They take a lot of time rehoming dogs. It may take a while and may feel frustrating, Muddy Mutleys advise to keep going as you will get the dog that is right for you.
Dogs from overseas
Find our as much as you can about the dog’s background and find out what support you will get. Dogs brought into the country from oversears may have lived very different lifestyles and the journey can be traumatic for them. Families can end up picking up the pieces medically, financially, emotionally and behavourly.
Taking your dog to the park and other open spaces
The park is full of excitement for dogs – other people, children running around, balls, food and interesting smells.
Teaching your dog how to behave calmly and sensibly around your own kids will help massively when taking your dog out. Training is vital. Make sure your dog has a good recall, it’s under control, on a long leash and take lots of food. Be in control otherwise problems can arise.
It doesn’t matter what breed your dog is, what it looks like or how much you love your dog if your dog makes someone feel in danger your dog can be reported and can be taken away from you.
Be cautious of other dogs
If you see a dog on a lead proceed with caution as it is usually on a lead for a reason. Also ask the owner before approaching or touching a dog.
Training your dog
Training is a must. Muddy Mutleys offer 1-2-1 and group training sessions as well as online programmes. Their emphasis is on fun training for dogs and people. They even have a kids club where they can go through tunnels, do obedience training, egg and spoon races, generally have fun and much more with their much loved pet.
Get in touch with Clare Grierson and Muddy Mutleys
Muddy Mutleys is based in Enfield, North London and offers dog training, dog behaviour, dog walking and pet care services. Contact Clare through the Muddy Mutleys website to find out more about Muddy Mutley and free 15 minute discovery call.