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!
Ah-ha Moments on Managing Kids & Dogs