In part one of my Life After Dog series, I talked about the loss of our dog Bailey and the effect that had on me. In part two, I am going to talk about life with kids after dog.
I have two young kids. My daughter, Amelia, just turned three and my son, Henry, is 8 months old. Life is hectic. My daughter is in the middle of potty training (I am not a fan of this process) and my son is crawling and is already starting to scoot around the house. I expect he will be walking any day now. So, needless to say, there is a lot going on in the Schneider household.
I will admit that life is easier without a dog right now. I don’t constantly have to manage where the dog is in correlation to the kids and worry about potential bites. When it comes to dogs and kids, management and constant supervision are vital. Dog bites happen and they happen fast, especially to kids. I am part of an organization called Family Paws. We work with families on how to prepare their dogs for babies and toddlers. We are constantly talking about supervision and the importance of Active Supervision, which means there is fully awake adult supervision. I don’t know about you, but with two very active kids, I don’t always have the energy for fully awake supervision; thus, not having a dog makes my life easier.
But if Bailey were still around, I would be working very hard to ensure everyone’s safety in my household. Towards the end of Bailey’s life, Amelia wasn’t even 18 months. I noticed that Bailey became much more anxious and wasn’t willing to walk away when she was feeling threatened by my mobile toddler. I know the cancer was starting to bother her more and she didn’t always feel the best. When a dog doesn’t feel good, they tend to react more. And that is exactly what was happening.
Bailey stopped making good decisions and started reacting.
So we spent a lot more time practicing Proactive Supervision, which includes planning and preparing safe separation. This meant we separated my daughter and Bailey with gates and crates. When Bailey was feeling especially bad after a bout of chemo, we put her in her crate with something to chew on. When she was in a better mood, we separated her with a gate across the room. She was always in proximity to us, but she never had to be put in a situation where she felt threatened and Amelia didn’t have to be put in a dangerous scenario. Safety was key.
Now that Bailey is gone, I don’t have the constant pressure of ensuring everyone’s safety around a dog. But I also don’t have the constant ability to teach my children about proper etiquette around dogs. I think it is very important for children to learn how to act around dogs at a very young age. They need to understand that dogs are not a toy and cannot be grabbed at or climbed on. Dogs have feelings and deserve their own space. They also need to understand that not all dogs are friendly. Dogs can bite. Maybe we will have a dog that will love my children no matter what. But my children need to learn that their friend’s dog might not love new people, so they shouldn’t go up and hug the dog at the next birthday party. Dog etiquette is very important.
Bailey is constantly brought up in our house. We have pictures of here everywhere and we talk about her all the time. So even though Bailey isn’t here, we are using the lessons we learned from her. I will be much more prepared for a dog with kids when the timing is right. Until then, I hope to keep the memory of Bailey alive in my house, use examples to teach them safety and help other families through Family Paws and my own business.
Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.