Thursday, July 06, 2006

A cool compliment!

On one of the lists I'm on someone posted a philosophical question about a childhood dog which was much beloved of the parents but then when they had a child (her) it was very aggressive and ended up severely biting her and the dog was put down. The question was what could have been differently either before or after.

My response was:
I don't know if this would have helped in the case of your parents Chow or not but from the second my baby came home, I ensured he was the predictor of All-Wonderful-Things-For-Little-Red-Dogs. Training (both formal and informal - I put the baby in a sling and away we go), games, cuddles, going outside, chance to file their nails on the board, going for walkies, being brushed, yummy treats raining from heaven while they chill on their mats etc happens when the baby is there. No baby, life is boring. The baby at 7.5 months even "helps" with stuff like target wand work by holding a wooden kitchen spoon in the high chair while I click and treat! He loves to see the dogs wiggling in glee beneath him and laughs the whole time. I've also gotten them used to things that might otherwise be unsettling like crying (though we practice attachment parenting so this isn't often), loud baby vocal experiments, jerky movements, toys being flung from the highchair and such by making them a good indication that the value of the rewards are likely to escalate dramatically.

My dogs are also pretty used to being stared at and eye contact but we're going to start reinforcing the idea that kids staring is a great thing quite shortly since the baby is now mobile. They're used to being tugged on and bopped as well and think it's a game. I started that because I figured it was possible some idiot might someday try to swat them with a bottle or
rolled up paper or something and didn't want them to be afraid or react badly - I'd rather they think it's an odd human game. I also make sure that whenever he is around them, I am making sure he uses soft, flat hands and not grabbing/pulling/hitting by waving his hands. I started this when he was a few months old by stroking his hand very gently and whispering, "soft and gentle hands, flat and open, soft and gentle" to him. Now touching the back of his hand ensures he lets go of anything he's grabbing and starts using a flat, gentle hand with soft movements. Unless he's tired or ill, in which case his concentration and motor skills aren't so great so we just don't let him pet the dogs then. We've used that when we pet (my hand on his demonstrating) and let him pet the dogs, who love it and will come over to him for pets. Crates have always been off-limits, where no one can bug them. With the baby crawling, I'll be putting a low wood playpen around their crate so they can jump in to prevent the baby from bothering them until he's old enough to understand. I watch carefully of course but stuff happens and crawling babies move fast! ;-) The dogs (one 4 year old Aussie, one 8 year old IG and one 9 year old IG who we just recently lost and the kitten who is about 6 months now, love to be near him, so it appears that everything is working well so far.

I should also say that my dogs have no fear or aggression problems to start with though and are more or less pretty even going sorts. I'm not clear if perhaps this dog had an aggression issue before you with small children or it was perhaps learned through undersocialization and/or bad
I got a couple of really nice comments on it incllludddinnng a compliment from SC herself saying I'd done a terrific job and my post should be required reading for all dog owners contemplating adding a new human to the pack. I am both cheap and easy, I think that just made my MONTH! LOL

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