Resources For families with dogs and babies!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Visiting toddlers at a doggie home.

Summer is here and the time is perfect for a visit to relatives.  I know our family is preparing for visits and with that comes thinking ahead as we are traveling with a toddler.  Packing plenty of activities along with patience will be key!  We will be visiting some family homes where there will be dogs.  Although all the dogs we will visit are well behaved and indoor family dogs, our toddler is unfamiliar to them so extra caution and care must be taken. 

It will be our job to supervise and be sure that our daughter is not left unattended or allowed access to any of the dogs without our guided supervision. These dogs are all wonderful but...our toddler is unfamiliar and they have every reason to be weary. 

Here are some things parents should consider when visiting homes with dogs.

1. Discuss any concerns about the dog with the owners ahead of time if possible.  In families this can be a touchy subject but important if you are able to talk about any discomforts.  Discuss with your spouse or partner any concerns.  Have a plan.

2.  Plan where your child will nap or rest if spending the night.  Be sure there is no way the dog will have access to your child when you are not awake and supervising.  Be sure no other child might open a door allowing access etc.  Baby monitors are great helps here!

3.  Understand that not all dogs appreciate all kids.  Even if this dog has been around other children it does not mean that they will want to be around your toddler on that day.  Older dogs especially may not be interested in young children and their unpredictable behaviors.  Even if the owner says their dog is fine...respect the dog and know that opting to not engage is sometimes the best choice.

4.  BE EXTRA careful around food!  Dogs that normally do not "guard" food items from their owners may guard from guests....especially young children!  This can be very dangerous at picnics and family gatherings where there are many distractions.  Be aware of the dog and where your children are at all times if food is about.

5.  High energy activities and loud kid play can be very arousing for dogs.  If there are many kids running around and acting silly, be extra diligent about supervision. (if possible ask for the dog to have their own down time away from the "kid fun." or that the dog be leashed.

6.  Follow your gut and do what is safest for your child.  If you feel unsure then take precautions.  Parents must be alert and proactive when visiting homes with their babies, and young children whenever there are dogs involved.

Dogs are great additions to our families but they have special considerations when it comes to guests and large gatherings.  

What can you do if you have visiting kids coming to your home with your dogs?

1.  Allow several guided activities that the kids can do with you and your dog that will be structured, safe and fun for both.  Ex.  Catch, fetch, hide and seek, high five etc.
2.  Stock up on some yummy treats that you freeze in food dispensing toys for guest visits.
3.  Only allow short sessions for your dog to be around all the guests when you are able to give your full attention. This way the dog stays interested and it is not overdone or overstimulating.
4.  Allow your dog a safe place to be away from everyone to enjoy their treat while food is out for the guests.  
5.  Keep your dog on leash and reward them for calm and relaxed behavior when guests are over.
6.  Be aware of any guests or parents of children who are fearful of dogs.  This can make for a stressful time for them and your dog.  You want to be sure to set your dog up for success.  
7.  Remember that your dog may like people but too much and too long can be just too much for even the best of dogs.

Be safe, have fun!

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