Dogs will tell you in subtle ways when they're not happy – do you know what the signals mean?
Before a baby is born, it is imperative you learn to read your dog's body language so that you can interpret the often subtle signs that mean a dog is unhappy or uncomfortable.
"The better you become at reading your dog's body language, the better you will be at avoiding accidents," said Gina DiNardo Lash, assistant vice president of the American Kennel Club. "My main rule is to never leave a dog alone with an infant or toddler."
In the meantime, it is helpful to crate-train your dog if you haven't done so already, Lash said. A crate provides a cozy and secure place for the dog to rest and take a time-out from all the new sights, sounds, and smells of the new baby. When the dog becomes uncomfortable, it will appreciate having its own special place to recuperate.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Many dogs will tolerate being hugged while giving very clear signals they are unhappy or uncomfortable. Often a dog will bite after giving signals that it wants the hugging to stop.
Dogs don't like hugs, believe it or not," said Kellyann Conway, director of animal training and behavior for Animal Pet Video and Petfinder.com. "Dogs don't greet each other with hugs when they meet. When one dog places himself over the shoulder and neck area of another dog, he is seeking status over the dog."
According to the American Kennel Club:
Recognizing warning signs in a dog's body language will help tremendously in improving the relationship between pet and child, Lash said. While all dogs are individuals, some gestures are considered universal:
Members of the Pack
Dogs may believe that children are members of the pack, and a pack leader may lean heavily on a toddler, paw at the child roughly, or hurt the child by accident.
"It's important that toddlers understand the pet isn't a toy, that in fact it's very delicate," Conway said. "Make it clear there can be no tail or ear pulling, chasing, jumping on, hitting, teasing, yelling, or any other behavior that could frighten or hurt your pet."
Here are some more tips for ensuring a safe interaction between pets and children:
The best dogs to be around children are those owned by responsible adults. Take the time to learn dog body language and teach your child the proper way to behave around a dog.
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