Parent’s responsibility: Parents must take extra caution when visiting homes with dogs. Dogs that are not regularly exposed to child behavior or baby behavior may be more inquisitive, reactive or stressed by the little intruder. Plan ahead and discuss with your spouse the boundaries you want to set while visiting a dog’s home. If possible discuss with the owner of the dog what concerns you have or what boundaries you would like when you visit. Ex. dog on leash, dog crated, baby gates used. Etc. This sometimes is a touchy subject as many people never imagine that their dog would harm a child or baby. Keep in mind that most situations are due to miscommunication between a human child and dog. This does not mean the dog is bad...it means the dog is going to communicate as a dog does and growling and biting are forms of communication after other body language has not been successful. You must be prepared to supervise and take your own precautions. Be sure at no time that your child is unsupervised. If napping please be absolutely sure that your baby is secured by a closed door. Parents must take full responsibility for the supervision of their child when visiting homes with dogs. Trust your gut, it is better to be cautious then to have an unfortunate encounter.
Too much stimulation! Dogs can become stressed out during holiday parties and gatherings. Food, noise and unfamiliar faces can all contribute to stress for even the friendliest of dogs. Be mindful of this as you enjoy the holidays at family and friends.
Guarding behavior: Dogs that may not live in an active household may feel more threatened when there is a house full of guests. This could lead to resource guarding behaviors especially with high value yummy goodies at a holiday party. It is not uncommon for a dog to guard food from small children even if they never guard from their adults. . Be mindful of this and set your child up for success by not allowing a potential conflict to happen. Food kids and dogs….not a good mix unless it is a structured activity and the food is a reward of desired behavior.
New holiday doggie gifts especially high value! Dogs often take part in gift receiving and may especially guard a new novel item. Be extra cautious about new items or especially rawhides, pig’s ears or other high value treats.
Visiting dogs and kids to a dog’s home! Well, this one is the most dynamic and conflicting. Family holidays can be tough for even us humans to get along…let alone add several dogs to the mix! YIKES!!! If you are visiting a home where multiple dogs will be reunited and you have kids I strongly urge you to have a plan and discuss safety options with the host of the party. Again, supervision of your child is up to you but multiple dogs who are not usually together can lead to intense conflicts and no one wants a child caught in the middle.
Despite these precautions dogs are a huge part of our lives and we love to include them in all that we do. It is important to remember that what we consider fun and enjoyable may not exactly fit the same standards as our canine companions and we need to respect this fact. When including dogs with kids you must always remember that dogs will behave as dogs…..not people with fur and plan and act accordingly. Supervise, respect and reward desired behavior! Have a great holiday!