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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mindful moments when toddlers abound

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When you live with toddlers and dog/s as I do there are many moments such as these.  Here kelsyann is wandering about and Bailey is unsure of her intention.  Knowing your dog and watching for discomfort with constant supervision is key.  Bailey is a very sensitive dog and offers signals of discomfort when anyone enters his space.   He is a a dog that flees when uncomfortable and I encourage him to do so.  I think that this photo is important as these moments are common in homes with kids and dogs but.....if unsupervised and left without an adult to redirect or provide an option for the dog...over time these can escalate.  OR if the toddler continues to pursue the dog or corner a dog such as Bailey a bite is likely to happen.
In our programs (Dogs & Storks and The Dog and Baby connection) we address the 5 types of supervision and helpful management solutions.    In our home we use gates, crates, dog zones and outside time for our three dogs as our 18 month old little girl is quite active.  Each of our dogs has a different comfort level with her activity and we take that seriously.  I appreciate the signals Bailey uses to communicate with me and offer him an out when he indicates stress.  In this photo Kelsyann is moving about and her moving away actually relieved his stress.  I also called him to me and let him leave the room as a reward.  Bailey enjoys when we have "cuddle time" and he knows what is expected vs. the wild antics of a busy toddler.  "Cuddle time" is predictable and is the same each day.  Here is what that looks like.

In the morning as we get up Kelsyann pats the bed and makes kissy noises while calling "bailey booboo" onto the bed.  Bailey jumps up and I sit with Kelsy as we pet him.  He always snuggles in close and relaxes with this.  We always "check" and see if he wants more attention or if he is done.  We do this by gentle petting and then stopping.  If he moves in closer ....he wants more.  If he jumps up and dodges....then he is "all done."  Allowing him the chance to stay or go is important and part of building the trust in the interaction.
Setting up structured situations where the dog and child can succeed is key.  Often dogs are uncomfortable with toddlers and the structure and guidance with a parent helps to make it successful.
Dogs communicate with us the way they do with one another.  Watching carefully and learning how to support your dog when they indicate stress, conflict or discomfort is important.  Here is a sequence between our two dogs.

Check out all the subtle signals that in seconds happened.  These mean so much to dogs and are important for us to watch for.  

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