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Are Dogs and Babies a Recipe for Grief?
or a Grand Slam?

dogs and babies

Mixing dogs and babies takes more than just love.
It takes action. Yes, we can all learn to get along.

Dogs and babies are two of my passions. So when we first discovered my pregnancy, I was a little concerned. How would Moxie, the little shih tzu who had been with me since the 8th grade, handle this new competition?

Fortunately, there's a way to keep your family intact, without sending away your four-legged baby just when your two-legged one arrives.

I've been wanting an article on the issue of balancing dogs and a new baby for sometime here at the EiR. The subject of "pets" is a tender one, but necessary. Unfortunately, I wasn't confident that I was the one to write it.

Enter Robin Merrill. She's passionate about dogs and babies. In fact, she's doubled-dipped. Each of her toddlers has a hound. Talk about commitment!

This been-there mom is a freelance writer who can usually be found blogging at uBaby, a site committed to helping every woman have an active and healthy pregnancy.

I'm confident you'll find her article fun to read, and (most important in my view) full of good, solid, practical, useful information.

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The Best Dog Breeds for Babies

Please let me start with this: I am not a dog expert. If you want a dog expert, speak to a professional trainer and your veterinarian. Now, because I love, train, own, compete with, talk to, read about, and write about dogs, lots of people approach me with dog questions. If I can, I answer their questions. Then I tell them to go ask their trainer and their vet.

One of the questions I often get is, "What is the best dog breed for babies?"

And what I say with certainty is - there is no magic breed. Any dog will bite any child if the circumstances are right (or in this case, very, very wrong). It is important to remember that all dogs have teeth, and even the most loving, obedient dog is still a dog.


The Secret to Getting Dogs and Babies to Mix Well Together

Now, with that negative stuff out of the way, I will say that I am a huge proponent of kids growing up with dogs. I grew up that way and my kids are growing up that way. I think it is valuable for a child to learn from the very beginning to love and to be loved.

However, it is a lot of work to take care of a baby or toddler, and it is more work if you are also caring for a dog. If you do not have the time to adequately care for a dog, then don't set yourself up for the stress and the heartache. If you get yourself into that situation, you will be overwhelmed and overcome with guilt. In addition, your neglected dog might resent the little person who is stealing your attention.

If you are a high energy person with lots of love to give, you might be able to pull it off. Here's the secret to success: Supervision.

If you are going to have a dog and a baby in the house at the same time, you must supervise them every single second that they are in the same room together. You should never leave a dog in the same room as a baby or toddler, ever. You are just setting your dog up for failure.
  • Scenario #1 - Someone walks into the room and your previously gentle giant dog, assuming he is in charge of protecting baby, runs over and bites the person in order to protect the baby.
  • Scenario #2 - Baby cries, and dog runs over to investigate and knocks the swing over.
  • Scenario #3 - Dog jumps in the pack 'n play.
  • Scenario #4 - Older baby crawls over and bites dog's ear while dog is sleeping. Startled dog snaps at baby.
Need I go on?

Babies are unpredictable. Dogs can be unpredictable. If you are in the room, awake and vigilant, with a well-trained dog, you should be fine.


How to Choose Good Dogs for Your Baby

While I've said that there is no magic breed, some breeds are definitely more suited to family life than others. However, I cannot think of a single breed that I would forbid. If well-handled, most dogs from any breed can work. The converse is also true. Of the gentle breeds, if mishandled, any dog can be a problem.

dogs and babies 2

If you know that you really do want a baby and a dog at the same time, then the best thing you can do for your family is to do the research. Don't just surf the web and read longwinded accounts like mine.

Go and actually visit a dog of a specific breed. See how a dog interacts with a child, or with children.

Ask people who know. Call breeders. Breed enthusiasts are usually passionate and happy to answer your questions.

Keep in mind that any breed that was created to herd animals will likely herd your children. While this can seem harmless, and is not technically aggression, it can include painful nips, and significant pushing and shoving.

Also keep in mind that small dogs will not be safe from toddlers without diligent supervision on your part. Small dogs might also perceive a growing baby as a threat. A small dog's bite can do a lot of damage to a small person.


Good Dog Breeds for Babies

With all of that said, I am comfortable recommending the basset hound. I've done it, and my basset and babies coexisted perfectly peacefully. Bassets are relatively low maintenance, easygoing, gentle, and patient. But remember, they are still dogs.

I also know families that have had tremendous success mixing Labrador Retrievers and children. I grew up with Labs. There are many reasons this has become America's favorite dog. But they are still dogs, and can be rambunctious ones at that, especially for the first few years of their lives.

Golden Retrievers can also make good family members. This is an affectionate and highly trainable breed. A Newfoundland is truly a gentle giant, but he is a giant. He too is gentle and easygoing.

I've also had personal experience with having a bloodhound and a baby. Bloodhounds too are gentle and loving, but they can also grow! This breed is also slow to mature, so that means extended puppyhood! I've also heard from families that black and tan coonhounds are similar in temperament to the bloodhound.

Every dog needs an escape route in case he grows tired. So be sure that your dog has a place that is his alone, where he can rest without worrying about little fingers and toes.

Here's your recap: Do you really want a dog? Great! Then you will need to be committed to superb supervision! Do your research! Make sure your dog has a timeout space! And enjoy your growing family! I can't think of anything more fun!

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