In my years of engagement in dog behaviour, I’ve heard many stories about owners with newborns having to give up their dog(s), not only because of the dog’s aggressive behaviour, but because of the shedding of dog’s fur. Well we can probably understand the validity of their actions if the dog’s fur is truly affecting the health of their babies.
Living in a city – especially a stressful and performance-driven society, new parents are advised against owning a dog, or to give up their current dog as it is bad for the baby’s health. Unless there are pre-existing medical issues confounded by being exposed to a dog at home, it is fine to have dog(s) around our babies. From a dog behaviour therapist’s standpoint, I will address 2 major concerns new parents may have.
1. Health: All owners should ensure that their houses are kept clean and tidy regardless of whether the dog sheds fur or not. An organised, clean and tidy home primes a more conducive environment for facilitating a dog’s positive behaviour. When the home is kept clean, babies will not be breathing in as much dog’s fur. Contrary to common belief, there are studies that have shown that children growing up with dogs in the home have health benefits (e.g. reduced allergies and improved gut bacterial health). Here’s one of such an article: click here. I would like to encourage more owners to consider the possibility of having dogs and babies co-exist, and also to read up more before giving up their dogs the moment they have children.
2. Bites: A common concern all parents will have is the fear of their dogs biting their babies. We should not wait until we have babies to address a dog’s behaviour issues. This goes all the way back to the fundamentals of training the dog. The moment a dog is introduced into the home, it is of paramount to ensure that the first stage of training kick-starts a disciplined lifestyle – this would include structures and boundaries instilled so that the dog will be well-behaved eventually. I have helped many owners address their dog’s disciplinary issues such as biting and excessive barking. In any case, whether the household has children or not, any behaviour issues is worth addressing and correcting as we wouldn’t want to confine the dog whenever there are guests invited into the house. Or worse, have ourselves forever compelled to restrict all visitations due to a behavour issue at home. Indeed, the best way for bite prevention is to start well with its behaviour training.
Understanding the above two points can help owners better plan and prioritise their efforts in behaviour management when having a dog. With having a better foresight to invest one’s effort in dog training and behaviour management, life having dogs and babies co-existing in the house can be stress-free. That’s right, you heard me – stress-free!