Sunday, 23 February 2014

Barking Blondes: Dogs and Children

Joanne Good and Anna Webb
IMG 1405 768x1024 Barking Blondes: Dogs and ChildrenThe iconic image of Elizabeth Taylor with her canine co-star in Lassie Come Home sums up the great relationship that can exist between dogs and children.
In both film and literature we are fed scenarios where animals and children co-habit and become the best of friends.
The news of two children tragically mauled by dogs in one week is devastating.
So is the fact that there have been over 20 deaths caused by dogs since 2005.
It’s not surprising that many owners may be looking at their pet dog in a different light.
This week, on our radio show, we were inundated with callers recounting their stories of how they successfully integrated a newborn into the home with their dogs.
One caller, having taken on two rescue Rottweilers, explained how from the beginning she’d taught the dogs to ignore the baby. With very strict boundaries, these powerful Rotties were shown the child was no threat so they respected the baby.
Another caller described how she had lain her baby on a rug and allowed her two German Shepherds to inspect the new arrival and accept it into the fold.
In no way are we recommending this form of training but both examples  show how, when dogs are trained to a high standard, it is easier to build new rules and boundaries into their routine. Trained dogs know how to listen and obey. They also accept that the owner’s word means they must co-operate as a team.
There are many constructive steps anyone expecting a baby can do to make integration seamless. Start by planning for the arrival and building your dog into these plans. Nine months is more than enough time! Your dog will know you’re pregnant and will be very aware of differences in your ‘body odours’. Think about your dog and make him understand  that this change will not be a negative situation for him. Keep your dog’s routine the same, but sharpen your dog’s basic commands, stays, recalls etc. so you’re in control.
Let the dog explore the ‘nursery’ area before baby arrives, but on your terms, calling him away regularly, but also not excluding him from this new room. Once the baby is born then bring items with the baby’s scent back from the hospital. Train your dog very strictly to sniff but leave the item – the dog must understand that you own this item, he can be involved but under your direction.
Plan how you will cope with a newborn and your dog. The dog’s exercise and daily routine must not be compromised by the new arrival. Invited friends must pay attention to the dog as well as the baby, so the dog feels apart of the experience, but in a controlled way with boundaries so jumping up on visitors is absolutely forbidden.
Never, ever, leave the baby alone with Fido. Always supervise the proceedings. As the baby grows then teach him/her how to interact safely with the dog. The Kennel Club’s safe and sound scheme is a great place to start.
The Blue Cross launched their Pets are a Passion, Not a Fashion campaign this week, highlighting the number of dogs abandoned when owners can’t cope.
The charity explains that we are now often choosing dogs that are inappropriate for our lifestyles. Rather than researching the breed that will suit our lifestyle we are going for the latest trend.
We are also increasingly ‘humanising’ our pooches. Forgetting dogs require boundaries, exercise and routine to be a happy balanced animal. Dogs are a commitment and you need to be willing to put in a lot of work to achieve perfect canine citizenship.
Ask yourself “How well do you actually know your dog”?
They can read us like a book – but do we really bother to notice what’s going on behind those grateful eyes?
Barking Blondes by Jo Good & Anna Webb, published by Hamlyn, £

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