Most bite incidents between dogs and small children in the home occur from positive interactions (such as hugging, petting, and seeking attention) from the child or resource guarding (defense of toys, food, space, or other resources) from the dog. The good news is that these events are preventable with the proper management in place. Here, we talk through the top 3 management choices you can make in your home to help keep your child and your dog safe.
Number One: Set Up Success Stations
Success stations are designated spots within the home where your dog has an increased chance of success. These stations use physical barriers such as a leash, gate, crate, or a combination to prevent unwanted or unsupervised interactions between your dog and child. These stations should be used for limited periods of time and continually evaluated for safety as your child reaches new milestones.
The use of success stations is important for when you may be able to maintain complete supervision of your dog and/or the baby. They can also help to eliminate stress and give you and/or your dog a break from all the excitement.
Types of Success Stations
- A tether is a flat or roped leash attached to an anchor within the room. This method allows the dog to be in the same room with the caregiver and baby but limits the dog to a certain radius. This method is safe only when the baby is not yet able to move, crawl, or walk.
- A crate can be a safe and cozy space for your dog to seek rest around the baby. In many cases, you will need to access your dog’s comfort with being in the crate and where the crate is most effective. For some dogs, a crate in the living room where they can see what is happening is preferred. For others, they may need a dark, quiet space to truly be able to relax. Once your baby is mobile, this location may need to change again so the baby cannot interact with the dog while in the crate.
- Gates can help to prevent both your dog and child from accessing certain rooms or spaces. When choosing a gate, consider the height, attachment style, and strength, as some dogs may try to push, nudge, or jump their way over top.
- Using a combination of these methods is the best way to prevent direct interaction between the baby and dog, especially as your baby begins to move around and gain curiosity. For instance, using a baby gate to prevent your child from accessing where the dog is crated.
With all of these methods, it is very important to assess what will be best for your dog. We strongly encourage parents to slowly introduce these methods with positive reinforcement training BEFORE the child comes home to ensure they are comfortable and well adjusted. This will help to reduce everyone’s stress in the long run.
Number Two: Avoid Grumble and Growl Zones
Grumble and Growl Zones are areas/situations where your dog and baby are most likely to be in unwanted close spaces. These tight spaces and interactions can quickly tip into conflicting scenarios where your dog’s stress may escalate.
To avoid grumble and growl zones:
- Create a more open layout within your home to remove tight spaces in common rooms
- Assist your dog and child in navigating areas such as hallways, stairs, or doorways
- Use success stations to keep your dog and child’s play spaces separate
- Supervise your dog and child when around toys or treats
- Place your dog’s crate, bed, and resources out of reach from the child’s space
- Keep your dog away from the baby/child while they are eating (i.e. hiding under the kitchen table during dinner)
Number Three: Appropriate Supervision
Appropriate parental supervision is one of the most important elements of building a positive and safe relationship between your child and the family dog.
The best type of supervision is fully awake and active. This includes active participation in closer interactions. Remember: “Dog and kid on the scene parent in between!”
In times when you cannot actively supervise, it is important to have other preventative management systems in place as discussed above. Assure there are buffers and success stations for your dog and child to participate in activities such as playing, eating, or sleeping separately from each other.
If you need assistance in the development of your management plan, please do not hesitate to contact us at 860-242-9999 or email [email protected]