Multi-Dog, Multi-Kid household
There is no doubt that handling a multi dog and a multi children household has its challenges. As a parent your attention is constantly shifted from one to the other. Trust me, I get it! I am also a parent and in this situation! It is so important to continue to pay mind to the situations we are allowing our children and dogs to be in... and not overlook potential dangers.
Our best tool is proactive awareness of what our children and dogs can handle and are capable of. I am going to use references to my dogs in this post to help give a better understanding as to why paying attention to your dogs individual behaviors is crucial. You should never ASSUME your dog is going to be okay with something especially if they have shown time and time again, they are NOT OK with it.
We have three dogs in our household… Sage, Cali and Mollie. All vastly different in their communication style and tolerance level with our son, Keaton. As dog trainers, my husband and I are very much aware of what our dogs are communicating and you can be too! It's not difficult and in fact it is super fun to learn dog body language! Something very simple to note about dog behavior is their body language runs on a spectrum from loose to tense. The more tense they are - in their eyes, mouth, ears, body, tail - the more uncomfortable and are most likely looking to seek distance. The more loose and soft they are, the most content and over all okay with the situation. Soft eyes and a soft mouth is a huge clue into how your dog is feeling about the situation! Also, don't forget to check out our Learn - Table of Contents page for tons of info and resources on dog body language!
Comparing Mollie and Sage in their behavior towards Keaton is really fascinating. If you've read any of the other posts, you will know that sage is quite comfortable around Keaton. We make sure he does not bug her but even still, she is more than just tolerant of him. She shows in her inviting behavior signals that she truly enjoys him and his company. Sage will often seek out Keaton's attention and greet him specifically on his own when we come home, too. When Sage and Keaton interact, Sage's body language is always soft and loose. Her eyes stay soft, her mouth and face all exhibit a dog that is curious and comfortable. She will close the gap and come towards him in an effort to connect and be close.
**It is important to note that everything I am describing is not an assumption based upon how I would like their relationship to be. These are observations that I have directly seen with my eyes and interpreting behavior. Every parent wants their children and their dog(s) to get along flawlessly and live happily ever after. It is this notion that leaves us not paying attention to the important dog behavior signals and instead expecting our dogs to tolerate our kids. Don't do this.**
Mollie on the other hand is ENTIRELY different. She communicates differently, more dramatically and we as parents pay very close attention to how Mollie and Keaton interact. When Keaton approaches Mollie while she’s laying down, her eyes get big and she’ll often lift her head and even stand up and walk away if he comes within a foot or two of her. Sometimes she'll pop up quickly with a little growl and run out of the room. Mollie is obviously communicating that she is not comfortable with Keaton in a close space in that context. She would rather remove herself than interact with him.
To pay mind to this is crucial for Keaton and Mollie’s relationship. Even at almost 3 years old, Keaton knows not to approach Mollie and instead, he can go to Sage. You want all human and dog relationships to be built off of trust. If we were to allow Keaton to override Mollie’s ask for space, this would be diminishing trust between the two of them.
While both Molly and sage are of similar breeds and rescue background, they both show completely different behaviors towards our son and thus have different rules of interaction surrounding them. We have to make sure we are not making blanket assumptions on our dogs and rather paying close attention to the individual situation and hard behavior facts. If you are ever needing assistance managing your kids and dogs please don't hesitate to reach out - email@example.com!
If you are on social media, you will easily come across many photos and videos featuring kids, babies and dogs. Both being family members, of course people want to capture special moments between their kids and dogs. The question is.. are they appropriate, or even safe situations for both child/baby and dog? I often come across with these still moments in time and cringe at the positioning. This gave me an idea to run a poll on Instagram story to see what the average person sees when presented with a photo of baby and dog then asked the question "Is this appropriate, true or false?" Then based on the results, we can chat about it here!
Another interesting and different perspective is to consider what the dog is going through on a bigger picture level. Just like the parents, the dog is also going through a major transition period when a newborn comes home. Their sleep schedules are disrupted, their walking routines might be changed, and they now have a new loud and different smelling being in their home getting a lot of attention. Imagine your dog is struggling with these routine changes, new sounds and the like. They are resting or told to lay down and all of the sudden this new creature (the newborn) is placed on top of them. It's might not be so welcomed from your dog...
In this particular photo, the doodle is licking the babies head. Which may lead many people to say "look, the dog is kissing the baby so he must be fine!" Eh.. not quite! Dogs lick for many reasons and they don't all mean affection. Dogs can lick when they are uncomfortable, when they want to explore something, when something is new or simply if they like the way it tastes. It depends on the situation and the dog. It's not good practice to get into assuming all dog licks are that of affection and love!
Stay tuned for the next post which will include more examples of baby/dog photos with explanations!
Dogs like their own space.. and so do your kids!
Personal space is an amazing thing! It is quite important to most humans... Maybe even more important than ever before since the COVID pandemic hit. We all suddenly became very aware of how close we were to each other and our 6 foot bubble. As humans we have our own sacred space in terms of property too... Our homes, bedrooms and even our bathrooms if you really get down to the minutia. If someone enters that space uninvited, it will certainly elicit an angry, scared, confused or sudden response from us.
It is interesting though, often when I mention personal space in reference to dogs, people look at me with their head tilted to the side almost like it is some thing they never considered before. I always wondered why we (usually) respect each others personal space but we don't think of it when referencing our dogs?
A multitude of dog bites come from a dog being bothered when it is resting or when they have their personal space violated. This is such an easy rule to follow! Allow interaction by having your dog go to your kids, not the other way around. For example, if your dog is sleeping on their dog bed and your child wants to cuddle. While well intentioned.. how annoying to the dog? This of it in human terms mentioned above. If you're resting in your bed and your friend barges in and plops down next to you? You may or MAY NOT like that. Most of the time, our dogs tolerate this kind of behavior over and over again because they trust us and are usually good natured. However, tolerance level goes down over time. If your friend barged in on you in your bed room once a week... you may be more annoyed the 5th time then if they did it once and never to be done again.
When you teach these boundaries to your child, show your child that your dog has to follow that same. Don't allow your dog to bug your child when they're resting, in bed or eating. Your child will learn mutual respect of another being and it will surely grow the trust between the entire family.
These sweet images of Keaton and Sage may look effortless and easy. A child and dog loving each other as they “should” be. Well.. this is the result of a lot of behind the scenes hard work. Don’t be fooled, managing kids and dogs is an ongoing, attentive process they everyone in the family group needs to pay mind to.
We supervise every interaction and have corrected inappropriate behavior by interrupting and showing appropriate behavior. Keaton is not allowed to mess with the dogs, and the dogs are now allowed to mess with him. I'm going to repeat that.. Keaton is NOT ALLOWED TO MESS WITH THE DOGS ever under any circumstances. We play mutually fun games and are always paying attention to our dogs behavior to ensure they are comfortable with the current situation. Just like humans, dogs learn from their experiences. Their only form of communication is through body language. If their body language changes, they’re trying to communicate. If you’re not listening and watching, you will miss it.
A little while ago I was out walking with a dog training client and we stopped to talk to a neighbor. We were exchanging fun dog stories when the mom on 1 toddler said something like.. my dog is so dumb she I don't understand why she doesn't stick up for herself and finally bite my son. Naturally, this seriously peaked my interest for a number of reasons.. She proceeded to tell us how they allow their two-year-old to "beat on" their dog. Her words, not mine. When I asked her to define "beat on", she explained how the toddler body slams her while she’s sleeping in her bed, squeezes her up against the wall and will run over her and tackle her. She said they’re waiting for their dog (who is ten pounds lighter then the toddler) to bite him so he learns his lesson.
Needless to say, I told her everything that was on my mind, which was A LOT. I kindly began to describe how simple it is to manage these situations and imperative it is to not allow these situations to occur. Her dog will run out of patience soon enough. Her son will think you can treat any dog this way thus makes a recipe for disaster when he visits other homes who have dogs and this is entirely unfair to her dog. She unfortunately didn't really care to hear my suggestions and said you can’t tell a two year old to do anything and ignored me by justifying that her dog lives a wonderful happy spoiled life.
I beg to differ. This is abuse and months later I am still sick to my stomach just thinking about the torment that poor dogs is doing through.
I don’t judge any parent. This stuff is HARD. It takes constant observation, managing. reassessing and I am fully aware there are many types of children out there that can make listening to directions difficult. But as a parent and dog owner you must take responsibility to protect both your child and your dog. You cannot allow mistreatment. If you can’t stop your child or dog, then you can separate them and call a trainer for assistance.
That mother is allowing her toddler to abuse her dog. She’s waiting for her dog to bite him instead of parenting him. She’s showing her dog she will not help her, the dog is on her own. Soon enough, this dog will “bite out of no where” and who knows what after that. The toddler could get hurt. Everyone loses because the parents made a choice not to listen.
We can do better. Let's do better!
I am the trainer here at Love Dogs and adopted Sage from Love Dogs five years ago then had my son Keaton three years later. I also have two other delightful doggies at home! From the moment my son was brought home, my husband and I worked hard to teach Keaton and the dogs to respect each other.
Over time, I would send videos to the other staff here showing the dynamics specifically between Keaton and Sage because while it looks like so little is happening.. really SO MUCH COMMUNICATION is going on when you look a little deeper. Our director said.. you really should showcase these "Ah-ha Moments" to help other families learn to read social interactions between their kids and dogs.. and I thought.. WOW what a great idea! So here we are!
Ah-ha Moments on Managing Kids & Dogs