It's been a while since my last post, but I was hoping to get some suggestions and support from this great crew.
10 months ago, we brought home our new baby. My three year old corgi, Indy, was very interested in her, but hesitant. He has been very protective of her (sitting guard at the entrance to her room, checking on her when she cries, etc). At first, I thought he just didn't know what to make of her and he would calm down. Then, he began to get a little more aggressive. While he doesn't show aggression towards adults, he has attacked two dogs and acted aggressive towards a neighbor's child. So many people have asked if we are going to get rid of him. I don't want to do that! I just want him to learn to be with my daughter. They are both here to stay and I want it to be a safe relationship.
Now that she is 10 months old, my corgi still doesn't seem to accept her. He moves away when she is near and acts very nervous when she crawls toward him. I'm worried he will bite her out of fear, so I don't let them play together at all. In fact, I make sure to keep them separated when my baby is not being held. My husband is less nervous about it and tends to let her down with Indy in the room. He usually moves away or cowers, giving her a warning growl. When she's in her highchair, she feeds him (usually by accident). He likes that. Sometimes, however, he growls or snarls a warning when she leans too close.
While I know you can never fully trust a dog with a child, I would like to be able for them to be in the same room without worrying so much. What can I do to teach Indy that the baby is part of the pack and that he has to respect her?
Please help a nervous mom who loves her baby and her dog.
One could write a book about this.... There are two parts to the issue. One is the baby's safety, the other the dog's comfort level (the level at which he feels safe). If both are not at 100% ALL THE TIME you have a potential bite. A growl or snap tells you you have been very lucky, you misjudged the situation and you got the growl or snap instead of the bite, so some change is in order, once the situation that provoked the response has been understood and assessed.
Dogs and crawling/toddling children are rarely a good mix. Keep the dog in a separate area, where he can see/hear/smell what is going on (like behind a pet gate) whenever the child is mobile on the floor. Keep the dog away from the high chair. I don't allow my dogs near the table anytime we sit to eat. They are "persona non grata" and they know it!
As the child is older, you will have to teach her to respect the dog and to be respected, but this will not be for quite a while still. It is also important that you have good voice control of the dog and, if you don't training would be in order.
I have raised dogs, children and grandchildren. People often have unreasonable expectations of what that should look like and that's how so many bite situations occur and so many dogs lose their home for reasons that could have been entirely avoided. Your concern is well founded and you can have baby and dog if you manage things properly. Convince your husband that it's better to be safe than sorry.
I fully agree with Anna that you should be keeping dog and baby separated while baby is on the floor and/or toddling around, but also that Indy should be able to see/hear/smell your daughter. Is there a small room/area that can be gated off for your dog that is near the main living areas of your home? Perhaps the kitchen, a mud room, a play room, etc.
While I don't necessarily agree that all dogs can never be trusted with children (based purely upon my own experiences with my own dogs - though I certainly didn't take chances when my children were babies), it's certainly true that not all dogs can be trusted with children of all ages. It's possible that Indy may warm up to her more as she gets older and less wobbly when moving about.
One step you can take is to consult a good trainer to get an opinion on his behavior and what you and your husband might be able to do to both help Indy feel more comfortable and to establish a set of rules and boundaries for him. That cuddly, cooing little human is a completely new thing to him and she's changing all the time as she grows and develops. Getting some good rules and routines established for him (i.e. when baby eats, it's time to leave the dining room; when baby is down, it's time to go to the safer gated area where they can look at one another, but not touch) might help ease his anxiety a bit. :)
Anna's response is more positive than my immediate thoughts about it, but overall I think she's right.
At a party hosting all my son's young-parent friends, Cassie was unhappy around a crawling baby but was fine with toddlers on two feet. We removed her from the vicinity of the crawler and she seemed to be OK. But that's different from living with a little person who's not walking yet. Definitely create plenty of space between Indy and Baby. Do keep Baby well out of snapping range at all times. And absolutely keep the dog away from where the baby is being fed!
Be sure the dog never feels trapped near or in a confined space with the baby -- this can happen underneath a table -- say, a dining table with grownups' legs under there along with kid and pooch. Be sure an adult who grasps the potential risk is present at all times. Hubby may not "get" it... A human infant is not a puppy and so she does not understand what a "growl" means.
Thank you all for your advice. I do keep the living room gated off, so when she is on the floor, he is in out of the room. I also put a gate in front of her room, so they are separated there too. I had originally thought that by her having food in the high chair, he might see her as dominant and controlling the food, like we are, but that might not be the best idea. If I do let Indy in while the baby is on the floor, I place myself between them or I hold the baby.
I do hope that he will get used to her as she gets old. We try to introduce them daily- holding the baby and letting her touch Indy (often with her foot) while the other parent watches his response closely.
Good luck and best wishes for success with this project.
Like Holly, I'm not an animal trainer...but I'd speculate that it's not a great idea to let any dog scavenge food dropped by a child, particularly an infant in a high chair. That could give the dog the opposite idea of what you might think..."this food is mine and all i have to do is take it away from the kid."
Holly's got the right idea about talking to an animal behaviorist. Get a referral from a vet, since in most places just about anybody can hang out their shingle.