Know what to look for when pet meets baby

by Sofia M. Ehlers, The Birth Education Center of Okinawa
Stripes Korea

Part 2 of 2 part series. To find part 1 of this article, please visit

Now that you have a firm understanding on how to prepare your pet for your baby, let’s talk about some common issues that arise during this process:

1. Child-aggression. One of the biggest behavioral issues with pets and children, can develop from a few simple situations occurring.

First, there is social status gain. If you treat your pet like one of your children, they will think they are on the same level as your child in your home, and will compete for social status with your child continuously (this is a natural survival behavior all canines have). This can lead your pet to attempt social gain by submitting the child with aggressive behavior in “unprovoked” bites. The best way to prevent this from happening is to not think of, or interact with, your pet the same way as you do your children, and to implement basic obedience commands when your pet is interacting with the child.

Second, there is defensive behavior. Once your child begins crawling, be sure to teach them how to interact appropriately with your pet to prevent them from “defending” themselves with “provoked” bites. Do not allow your child to “play with” your pet by grabbing them, climbing on them, getting in their face, squealing, or making the dog display signs of stress with any other action from your child. You may allow them to appropriately approach, pet, and interact with your pet in a calm, predictable manner (predictable meaning in a routine fashion and in comfortable areas on the pet).

Finally, there is prey/play behavior that can lead to unintentional bites. Teaching your child how to play with your pet is only half of the formula. You also need to teach your pet how to “play” with people. Most pet owners learn this when they attempt to play with their pet and receive “play bites.” Although this is an acceptable form of interaction between canines, this is not acceptable between canines and humans. Make sure you teach your pet not to “play bite” you, your child, or other people. This will help alleviate your pet from “unintentionally” biting your child while trying to play with them.

2. Possession over the child. Although not as common as child-aggression, possession over the child can lead to aggression towards other members of the family and strangers. Allowing your pet to possess something with your baby’s scent will lead to possession over the baby; therefore, do not give your pet an article of clothing of your child to “sleep with” or “keep.” This also means not allowing your pet to interact with the baby’s toys/belongings. Furthermore, when your child begins to sleep in their own room, we do not advise allowing the pet to join them. This may seem like a very small issue, but if your pet develops possession over your child, it can become a very dangerous situation.

The final piece of advice we can give you at Cornerstone Canine Dog Training Academy is this: never leave your pet alone with your baby/child, no matter how much you trust them! Not only can unexpected, adverse behaviors surface from your pet, but also from your child. Be sure to have eyes on your family members whenever they are present around one another, and be sure to ask for help when you’re in need! Understand as well, that not every pet is ideal to live in a home with children. If or when you feel that your child’s or family’s safety is at risk, and cannot be resolved, be reassured that there are resources available to assist and enable your family and pet to live quality lives.

If you have any other questions or concerns on how to introduce/prepare your pet for your baby, please contact our trainers at Cornerstone Canine Dog Training Academy.

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