Dogs, babies and children

Having a new baby is an exciting and a scary time for Mum and Dad, only new parents can really know how precious that new baby is when you first bring them home, and no matter how loved your dog is, they now rank second in your affections to this new person in your life, coupled with the fact that all of our human instincts are to protect and keep this baby safe. Suddenly your family pet can seem very threatening to your family added to this is the guilt you are likely to be feeling at this change in loyalty!

The reality is that with some careful management and understanding this phase of your dog’s life can go reasonably smoothly.

  • Ø New mother and father to start using some baby products a few weeks before the due date, for example soap or baby lotion, to accustom the dog to the new smells of a baby
  • Ø Prepare your dog by changing appropriate daily events for example if sleeping in your bedroom start training the dog to sleep in the kitchen or utility room well in advance of babies due date
  • Ø It is likely that as a new Mother you will want to have private time with your baby, start accustoming the dog to being shut in another room away from you for sensible time slots say 1 hour two to three times a day, if you are at home a lot.
  • Ø Teach your dog a half hour down stay in your living room and commit to daily practice to adjust your dog to be trained to be in the same room as you without having your attention
  • Ø If a crate will suit your lifestyle, introduce this well in advance of your babies arrival, say at least 3 months before the due date or sooner if possible
  • Ø When you first bring the baby home once you feel comfortable bare the babies feet for the dog to sniff or lick, this will satisfy the dog’s curiosity and he/she will then lose interest in the baby.
  • Ø Do put your dog away when you need time alone with your new baby, this is a precious time and it is important for you to enjoy yourself as much as possible, your dog will be fine.
  • Ø Do not feel guilty that the time you used to have for your dog now has to go to the baby, this phase will pass and you will soon want to escape for a dog walk.
  • Ø You and your dog’s life has changed for good now, your dog will adjust to this much faster than you!
  • Ø Babies are more important than dogs and that is okay!
  • Ø Never never leave a baby or child alone with a dog, however trusted the dog is!

Older babies

As your baby grows so will the relationship between the baby and dog develop, luckily around the time babies start crawling they also start to throw food around, your dog will soon become a very faithful companion to your child as a result!

However with time new rules must be enforced:

  • Ø The dogs sleeping area is a no go for any children, this may mean using a baby gate in a doorway to protect the dog or putting the dog in a crate.
  • Ø The child’s sleeping area is a no go for the dog, or if not this will mean child and dog are alone unsupervised.
  • Ø Do stop your child from pestering the dog, such as when the dog is asleep or minding its own business, do not let your child approach, or your dog may have to tell the child off.

These rules are necessary for your dog to respect your child as a human and therefore higher in the pack than them. As the child grows we can encourage the dog to respect the child further by involving the child in the training and feeding of the dog.

  • Ø While supervising give your child food to place in the dogs bowl for the dog to eat, thereby teaching the dog that the child is not a threat at feed times.
  • Ø Teach your child how to use a hand signal with food to get the dog to sit and/or go down.
  • Ø Teach your child how to play retrieve with the dog, if your dog likes this game.

The biggest reason dogs see children as not higher than them in the pack is because they see adults ordering children about, much as they do dogs or maybe more so, as in my childhood, by having clear rules and boundaries we can keep our children and dogs safe.

an excerpt from my upcoming book “following the lead”


My family background

Both of my parents were townies! Animals did not play any part in their childhoods, not an auspicious start for a dog trainer, or was it?

My Dad was born within the sound of Bow Bells in a poor part of the East End. His Mother my Nan was in service before she married my Grandfather who was a dock worker, as were his forefathers, when there was work available. I didn’t ever meet my paternal Grandfather, he deserted his family before my Dads fifth birthday, by which time my Nan had given birth to 3 other children, though as was common back then, only 3 survived at that point in time.

My Dad told me how Nan would wake them in the night, to flee their lodgings to avoid paying the rent that was due, illustrating the level of poverty they were living under. My Dad always thought that Mum was up market from him!

My Mum, by comparison had a more affluent start in life, it was certainly more stable being supported by 2 parents and a large extended family in the city of Lincoln. Mum was one of 8 children, with 5 surviving to adulthood. Her Dad, my Granddad worked in a local factory and was a band leader for the Salvation Army in his spare time. I do remember that my maternal grandparents did not like animals. For Mum and Dad it was an era of little leisure time and even less disposable income, little wonder that neither of them had ever lived with a pet dog.


In the decade I was born, human life was not respected or treated as carefully as it is now, and dogs even less so.

For the most part, only the more privileged classes owned pedigree dogs, including the hunting and shooting types. Sterilisation of dogs was not the norm and in this age of latch key children and dogs, crossbreds bred freely and were cheap to come by, if not free, as the puppies were unplanned and unwanted.

Compared to today dog training was still in the dark ages, a time when a “good hiding” was the most commonly known method of training a dog, to “show them whose the boss”. When reward based training was practically unheard of, but considering reward was not a familiar concept for teaching children it is hardly surprising that dogs fared no better.

I feel fortunate that I grew up in a household that did not believe in beating children or dogs, at least two mistakes my parents did not make though they were so very ignorant about dogs, as was I!