Oh Baby! Introducing Dogs to Kids–Safely

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.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Woof Wednesday: Storks, Babies & Separation Anxiety


Whether you’re an expectant parent or grandparent, a new baby can bring joy into your life. But what does a newborn mean for the animals you’ve lived with for years?

Dogs used to adults may not recognize babies as the same species. Newborns and toddlers sound scary, smell funny, and seem to evict pets from your lap because they divert a favorite human’s attention. Here are tips to help you persuade your dogs to welcome babies as part of their family. The latest Paw Nation article offers tips on how to encourage your dog to welcome Baby into the home.

How have you managed the fur-kids when you became pregnant? Did the dog act differently? What was his or her reaction when the baby came home? Was it love at first sight or did the dog drag his furry heels accepting the “interloper?”

I’m always amazed at the folks who share their lives with a wonderful canine companion for years and years–and then decide to “get rid of him” because of the baby! Did you know that infants and kids brought up with pets are LESS LIKELY to develop allergies to them? There are wonderful programs available to help like my colleague Jennifer Shryock’s Dogs & Storks (awesome I love it!) and the free pamphlet from American Humane called Pets Meet Baby.

Safety is always an issue, of course. Teaching children how to interact properly with dogs is as important as the fur-kid learning good kid-manners. You should teach puppy bite inhibition whether you have kids or not. These additional dog bite prevention tips can help you and your kids learn how to be safe around your own dogs and strange dogs.

Adopting a new friend?

Once your dog accepts the infant as a member of the family, a wonderful relationship can blossom. When its a young dog, the kids and pup can grow up together. But that means dogs that become very attached also can suffer when the child loses interest in the pet–or goes away to school. Yep, it’s back-to-school time and especially for puppies acquired over the summer, you may notice some separation behaviors from the little guy. After all, if for the first months of his life he had constant company and attention from the kids and they leave all day for school or–HORRORS!–move away to college, what’s a lonely dog to do? Here are some tips for dealing with separation anxiety and behaviors.

Are your dogs upset that school started? How does their behavior change? Do you have tips to share to help them feel better until the kids come home? Please share!

A great relationship with dogs can result in something like the trust and joy exhibited in this video. Enjoy!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!