AUSTIN (KXAN) — Any dog lover will tell you their pets are not pets — they’re family members. But adding a dog to a family with small children can be stressful, or in some cases, dangerous. Luckily, experts say you only need to do a little homework to find the right fit.
Most people think they know, based on breed, which dogs will love their kids and which could be aggressive. Michele Mendoza, who is part of the Behavior and Enrichment team at Austin Animal Center says that’s a mistake.
“I wouldn’t make a recommendation based on breed.”
Instead, Mendoza recommends spending time with the dog before you adopt. Some dogs may love your belly rubs but get freaked out by a curious toddler who wants to inspect their tail, ears and everywhere else.
Mendoza says these meetings can tell you a lot if you know what to look for. Growling or aggressive barking are obvious signs but there are subtler, early warnings that a dog is uncomfortable with the situation.
- Ears back and low on their head
- Eyes open wide
- Licking lips
Mendoza says these are a dog’s way of telling you to “get back.” But if the dog is relaxed and loose, it’s a sign they probably don’t mind all the crazy behaviors that come with little kids.
Dogs that were surrendered to the shelter by their owners usually come with extensive notes that tell you whether the dog has experience with kids. Strays don’t usually come with notes, but Mendoza says to ask the shelter staff about their observations.
What if the dog came first?
If you already have a dog and are now expecting a child, Mendoza says to start getting the dog ready for the new addition even before they’re born. She recommends setting up the crib and stroller so the dog gets used to all the new stuff in the house. Also, play videos of crying babies so the dog gets used to the sound. Also, if they don’t already have one, give the dog a safe space — a bed, crate or closet where they can go to get away from the baby.