A cat writing colleague called me last week after someone asked about tips for introducing babies to dogs. The person wanted to know how to teach the dog that the Baby was “alpha.”
Think about it. There is so much WRONG with that statement I really don’t know where to begin. You bring an infant home from the hospital, a creature that makes funny, weird (scary! prey-like) sounds and moves in a (scary! prey-like) strange way, and has enticing (scary! food-like) odors–milk, baby lotion, poopy-treats–
And you expect the dog that’s lived in your house, shared your lap/sofa/bed and received his share of attention and love to suddenly say, to this helpless and obviously puppy-esque creature–YOU DA BOSS!
You can try, of course. I don’t recommend it, and here’s why. A baby physically and mentally and emotionally–in reality–cannot be “alpha” over anything. That’s a contradiction in terms. “Alpha” implies being in charge. I hate that term, by the way, it’s so over-used and incorrectly thrown around. A dog may certainly tolerate the new baby and even come to love the infant but not at the baby’s behest, but because your dog respects, trusts, and loves YOU and your relationship.
My ComPETability books detail a whole lot more about how dogs think (and also how cats think), and both books include detailed step-by-step advice on what to do when you bring an infant into your home.
Toddlers are a whole other matter. The ComPETability books also have details about introducing toddlers and older kids to pets.
That’s vital not just for parents, but important for grandparents and visiting relatives to know especially over the holidays. Young kids may, indeed, think they are in charge of things and act that way, but the dog still knows better! I even covered this issue in my LOST AND FOUND thriller with the relationship between a highly-trained service dog and Shadow’s seven-year-old boy partner. How would Shadow have reacted to being struck repeatedly if he hadn’t been trained and drilled over and over again to expect and accept such treatment–and even then, that’s no guarantee a hurt dog won’t lash out.
You do NOT want a dog to try and teach a child his/her “proper place” (from the dog’s perspective–and hey, it’s normal for dogs to do this!) and so tips for introductions and supervised interactions are vital.
I’ve offered some of these tip on my puppies.about.com site for preparing dogs for new babies, and introducing dogs to young children. How have you handled these situations with your pets? This is an opportunity to create a loving and lasting relationship with pets that can build and grow for a lifetime! Please share your tips.
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