22 answers

Getting Dog to Accept Baby into the Family

Please help me! Our dog, a Labrador retriever, had always coexisted fine with our son, Nathan. We introduced him to him when we brought him home and let him smell the baby. For a while he was curious about Nathan and eventually pretty much ignored him. But, now our son is almost 9 months old and recently started crawling. Since he became mobile, the dog hasn't wanted Nathan to touch him. For example, if the baby were to reach to touch the dog’s fur, the dog would back away almost as if he was afraid of the baby. I have tried to keep Nathan away from the dog since the dog was obviously unsure about it. Well, tonight the baby got too close for comfort and when he grabbed at the dog, the dog growled and snapped at the baby. Needless to say, we are all freaked out. My initial reaction was to think that we must get rid of the dog right away. But, my husband thinks that he can be trained to understand that the baby is more dominant in the family. Can anyone share their experiences of what, if anything, has worked to help a dog understand their new place in the family? thanks alot for your help!

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So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all the great suggestions (Besides the ones that suggested that I am a terrible mother for even considering keeping the dog). We have already started training the dog that he is not to be around the baby without permission. Other suggestions we plan to use are holding the dog down in a submissive position and allowing the baby to touch him, holding the baby while we feed the dog, and taking walks with the baby walking ahead of the dog. In the past when we take walks my husband and the dog have walked ahead of me and the baby. We never thought twice about this conveying the order of the pack to the dog. Thanks for the good pieces of advice!

More Answers

If the dog thinks he is "boss" (alpha), you cannot get him to change his behavior. You have to establish yourself as the alpha in the pack.

You might want to consider, therefore, any time the dog tries to assert his dominance, pushing his shoulders to the floor and pinning him on the floor until he licks his lips. This is a way of communicating to him that you, not he, is the alpha, and that he needs to submit to you. When he licks his lips, he is indicating that he is willing to concede that you are the alpha and is willing to submit to you.

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hello sara, I actually just got through with this stage with our 2 bigs dogs, one is a lab/rautwiler (spelling?) and the other is a big mix of other dogs. but they are both big dogs and for so long I was so worried about our now 17 month old daughter and them, our oldest dog is about 7ish so he is kind of an onry old man and trained to be a watch dog from the getgo, the other we had for about two years before we had our daughter. So I know what you are going through and it is very good to be cautious, and if the dog is part of the family like ours are it is hard to think about givng them away, but is what we did is of course we never let Kayla (our daughter) climb on the dogs and when she would get close to the dogs one of us would get down there with her and pet the dog so that they would understand that it is ok. you don't want to shoo the dog away because then they are being replaced and they will never get used to your children. an I must say when she was crawling was the worst time because she is little and kind of a foriegn object/prey like to the dogs. We also had a problem with the oldest dog growling as he walked away from Kayla when this would happen I would disiplin Thor and let him know that it was not tollorable. When she started walking things got much better and easier because she looked and acted more like a human being and now she is part of the 'pack'. Thor our oldest dog is still a grumpy old man but he knows that she is here to stay and one of us. We actually had a problem with our old niegbors dog and our youngest dog Rily, the little dog came barking toward my MIL and Kayla while on a walk, and needless to say we ended up paying a vet bill for a deceased dog =/. So your dog will eventually get it but I wouldn't trust him until he does understand. It took me until about 3-4 months ago before I started trusting my dogs with my daughter but now I know there is not a worry, although when you start having other children come over keep an eye on them and the dog because he may not like the OTHER children to touch him. O sorry for the long response but when Kayla was in her high chair eating and she would feed the dogs a little as it fell on the floor and of course her finger foods when she was done with them, I think that it also helped because they are not going to bite the hands that feeds them, right? good luck and I promise if you have patience there is a light at the end of the tunnel.=)

1 mom found this helpful

Hi S., We successfully introduced two children to our family dog. I was told that you need to teach your dog that they are the lowest member of the pack (family). As long as they know they are loved they won't mind moving to the lowest member. One suggestion I remember and it sounds really silly, but worked was to have your child play in the dog food before the dog eats. Now, I did not want to teach my son to play in the dog food so I would hold him in my arms and he sort of "danced" with his feet in the dry dog food while our dog had to sit and wait until our son was done. I know it sounds silly! We made the mistake though of not setting limits with our son and the dog. When our son was able to walk, he would try and jump on the dog and that just wasn't fair to the dog. Even though our daughter is only six months we have started to tell her to be gentle with the dog.
I am glad we put the effort in- our son is in love with his doggie! I would even say they are best friends1

1 mom found this helpful

You need to make sure that your dog knows who's boss, it sounds like he thinks he is the alpha dog in your home, the fact that you say that he is protective of you and your husband is acctually a very bad trait. Anytime he even looks at your baby funny you need to instantly punish him in wahtever way you deem best, a stern word or even physical punishment is useful in teaching him that he is never allowed to harm the baby. When he is not acting scared or aggressive to the baby and they are co-exisitng in the room peacefully, reward your dog with kind words and treats. Behavior modification for dogs is really simple. Oh, and if he does seems scared of the baby, the WORST thing you can do is try to comfort the dog, then you are teaching him that he is right to be fearful and fear will quickly turn into aggressivness.

1 mom found this helpful

Put the dog into a submissive pose....lying on his back or side, take your baby over to the dog, and while you are there, have your baby climb on, the touch, and dominate the dog. YOu will have to do this often, to make your dog understand that he is supposed to let the baby touch him. jUst like potty training, and obedience training, it takes a lot of repetion. Also, whe nthe baby gets a lottle bit bigger, let him help you feed the dog.

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Scroll down to "Dogs and babies - preventing dogs from biting babies"

It tells how to get the dog to know the baby is dominant. This is a website from a professional dog trainer. Right now, he would tell you to crate your dog whenever the baby is around. You should freak out if he is growling, because the next step is to bite. Our dog growled at, then started barking, and then bit our toddler 3 times. We got rid of the dog, before waiting for a more severe bite. It only takes one second for a dog to bite a baby, and they usually go for the face or neck if they do bite, and they can easily bite the eye out.

BE CAREFUL!!!! My dog bit my toddler right in front of my both times! First on her hand, then on her mouth. The 2nd bite was unprovoked!



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I know this sounds silly, but I highly recommend you watch "The Dog Whisperer" on The National Geographic channel. I have seen him solve this problem easily and safely many times. In short, you and your husband need to become the dominant ones. Always walk the dog with him along side and slightly behind you and do this if you can, while walking the Stroller and baby so the baby becomes more dominant as well. I think it is too soon to be getting rid of the dog. The baby probably makes him nervous and you can really change that for him. Best of Luck!


1 mom found this helpful

I agree that you need to watch them closely. I agree that you need to use dominance skills to make sure doggy knows your boss (I've used the strategy of looking down, straight into his eyes, close proximity - its another sign of dominance).

I'm surprised nobody mentioned kennel training. If he isn't already, kennel train your dog right away. (The kennel is a dog crate big enough to be comfortable for the dog, that you can close him in.) Then put is food and bed in the kennel and make sure it is off-limits to your little boy. Dogs get most aggressive over food and bed, so this helps avoid probalems. If the dog wants to get away, he will know that he can go to his kennel. If he misbehaves, he also is sent to the kennel. Contact the human society about info for kennel training - I believe I got the info from there (or maybe a local animal shelter).

But do make sure that you always watch dog and son when they're in the same room.

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