Dog and Babies

baby and dog

baby and dogDear Mr. Dad: I’m pregnant with our first child and I’m due in about four moinths. One of the things I’m worried about is our dog, a 150-pound male mastiff, who is truly a part of our family and not just a pet. Some friends of ours say that it’s dangerous to have a giant dog around a newborn and that we should start looking for a new home for him. Is it? And is there some way to prepare our dog and keep our baby safe?

A: There’s no way to predict with 100 percent accuracy how animals are going to react in any given situation, but you can get some hints by asking yourself these questions: What is the dog’s personality? Is he aggressive or territorial? Does he growl or bite? Does he jump on you, the furniture, or guests? Has he spent time with children? Does he like children? How protective is he of his toys? Could he possibly confuse a neatly wrapped up baby with a chewable toy? Does he bark when he wants attention? Does he understand and obey basic commands? I’m sure you can figure out which questions need a Yes answer and which need a No.

But no matter how wonderful your dog is, there’s always some risk. According to Michael Wombacher, author of “Good Dog, Happy Baby,” of the 4.7 million people who get bitten by dogs in the U.S. every year, 80 percent are children under five. Eighty percent of those bites are to the face and happen during feeding, petting, or playing. Most of those dogs live in the victim’s home and have no history of biting.

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Preparing Your Dog for Your Baby + Raising Friends for Life

Michael Wombacher, author of Good Dog, Happy Baby.
Preparing your dog for the arrival of your child.
Issues: How to evaluate your dog and identify potential problems before the baby arrivers; how to resolve common behavioral problems such as barking object guarding, jumping up, overprotectiveness, and more; how to be sure your dog understands his place in the pack; teach your dog to build positive associations with the baby.

Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings.
How to stop the fighting and raise friends for life.
Issues: The most common mistake parents make with siblings; why you shouldn’t force your kids to share; how and why to schedule meltdowns; ways to foster sibling bonding; when to intervene in a sibling fight; should you force your kids to apologize to each other after a fight?

Pets and Toddlers

Dear Mr. Dad: I really want a dog but my wife doesn’t think it’s safe with our 2-year old daughter. Is she right? Aren’t there some benefits as well?

A: A dog could make a great addition to your family, but you and your wife are both right: there are some risks and rewards.
Some of the risks include:

  • Aggressive behavior. Dogs, even the nicest ones, can be unpredictable, and there’s always a risk that it could attack, bite or otherwise harm your daughter.
  • Defensive response. When dogs act aggressively, it’s often because they feel threatened. Some dogs are fine with being chased, having their tail pulled, having their food eaten, or even having a finger stuck up a nostril (my daughter did this to a friend’s dog). Others will react in much the same way you might if someone did that to you.
  • Rough play. Dogs can get excited and might accidentally knock your daughter over.
  • Allergies and fleas. Pretty self-explanatory.
  • Messes. Toddlers, preschoolers, and dogs have accidents. It comes with the territory. Plus, some dogs may tear up your house if they get left alone for too long.
  • Time and money. Dogs aren’t like goldfish—you’ll need to spend a lot of time walking, grooming, and playing with it. Will that cut into time you’d otherwise spend with your wife or daughter? In addition, estimates that keeping a dog costs $800-$2,500 per year.

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