The baby-dog-grandparent reckoning 

If anyone asks me what the dog, baby, and grandparent relationship is like, the answer is, “complicated.”

For example:

  • Let’s say a dog lives with grandparents who babysit for their new granddaughter, but, the dog is not sure about the new interloper, and the grandparents don’t know what to do when their dog barks at the baby.
  • Or maybe we are talking about a different dog who lives with grandparents who babysit for their new grandson and this dog loves the grandson and always wants to be where the baby is. However, the boy’s parents don’t want the dog around their son.
  • Or we might have a dog who lives with mother, father and baby, but the grandparents never liked this dog, and now they have to deal with the dog whenever they are visiting and babysitting.

The permutations are endless but, regardless of the makeup of your grandparent-dog-baby relationship, the issue of keeping the baby and dog safe around each other is as important as if it were the parent-dog-baby relationship.

Two of my favorite clients brought home a rambunctious and mouthy ten-month-old rescued Shepherd mix, and were worried for their grandchildren, who visit often. After I met the dog, I was worried for them and their grandchildren.

He was strong with a hard mouth, and I was bruised more than a few times when working with him. They had great management in place for him—an exercise pen that contained him completely in a gated kitchen. He was slowly given more and more access to the house as his behavior improved and he settled into the home. At first when the kids were visiting he was in maximum containment—in the pen in the gated kitchen.

Grandparents, Bandit and two of the seven grandkids!

Grandparents, Bandit and two of the seven grandkids!

Months after we started working, I said it was time to introduce him to the grandchildren without physical management, although the grandmother was always with the dog when he was interacting with the kids. By slowly integrating him into this family, he didn’t make any mistakes with the kids and eventually was wonderful around them. In fact, he lights up for the kids as he does for no one else. (They tell me he does the same thing when he sees me, but I bought his love with treats, unlike the kids, whom he just loves.) They have made such wonderful progress with this dog that during the summer when their pool is open, the grandkids and the dog all enjoy swimming and playing fetch with the pool toys. Even so, when the kids are there for extended stays, the grandmother limits their time with the dog to give him a break and is always present whenever the grandkids and dog interact.

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