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Dogs and babies - help needed

(30 Posts)
Deaconwood Tue 06-Oct-09 20:48:52

Hello everyone,

We have a seven-month-old baby and two two-year-old whippets. After the birth of our son we introduced the dogs to him gradually and they have always been very gentle and cautious with him. Over the months I have become more relaxed about their contact and allowed them to mix with him quite freely - with hindsight perhaps too freely.

Last Thursday I had the baby on the sofa with me with one of the dogs, who was asleep/resting. The baby was being as wriggly as babies are and somehow kicked or poked the sleeping dog. Dog snapped and bit him on the face. Incredibly luckily the injury was only minor but it could have been so, so much worse.

My first loyalties are with my son and I instinctively first thought that the dogs would have to leave as I could never trust them again. But cutting them out of our lives was an incredibly difficult to decision to make and we have been going round in circles and circles for days.

The dogs went to stay with their breeder for a night to give us some breathing space. We are now faced with a dilemma:

1. Allow the dogs to carry on living with us, but with a very different lifestyle. The dogs are now sleeping in an outbuilding with their large crate. After a long morning walk they are happy with this arrangement and come in the house in the evenings and when I can control the situation with the baby. This, combined with possible castration (breeder's advice) to calm them down a bit. Contact with baby would be strictly limited. Dog training sessions to help with behaviour (not that their behaviour was ever awful).

2. The breeder is happy to give them a home for as long as it takes to find them a suitable home with new owners.

I am totally torn about what to do. Deep down I know that I feel uneasy about having the dogs back in the house and I keep replaying the horrible event in my mind. I also worry about how I can ever trust them again, even if contact with my son was limited - particularly if we have more children. We live in a small house which makes things more difficult.

However, the thought of saying goodbye to them forever is awful. Was it terrible one-off mistake, or a warning I have to pay attention to for the safety of my child?

Any relevant advice anyone has would be incredibly useful.

Many thanks

Knickers0nmaChoppedOffhead Tue 06-Oct-09 20:51:05

I am sorry but I would have to rehome them. I know it is terribly sad (I ha to rehome my dog last month for other reasons) but for the safety of you ds, rehoming is the only way forward.


FlappyTheBat Tue 06-Oct-09 20:57:04

As hard as it may seem just now, you can't allow these dogs to have contact with your son. What he did to them was minor compared to the abuse that a toddler will inflict upon a dog!

We got a puppy just before I found out I was pregnant with dd1 and I said to dh if the dog ever snapped at or turned on dd1, then the dog would have to go.

You can't be around to supervise your ds and the dogs all the time.

What would happen later on when your ds is old enough to toddle outside and stick his fingers through the crate?
Could you trust the dogs not to snap?

Dogs sometimes dislike the noise that young children make and this can make them more likely to attack, also children move in an unpredictable way, which again may take a dog by surprise.

If you feel you are unable to completely trust a dog again, then I'm afraid it is time to find a new home for the dog, sorry.

purpleduck Tue 06-Oct-09 20:59:35

Hmmm,thats a tough one sad
I think I would probably rehome them. It would worry me that it wasn't just a snap, it made contact.
I have 2 dogs, and we had to return a dog (about the same age as yours) to the Dog's Trust for biting my little girl. It was awful, and I'm so sorry you are faced with this sad

HKT Tue 06-Oct-09 21:02:00

We had this happen with DC3 and our jack russell.
The dog was asleep, DC jumped on her, dog snapped and bit him on the nose.
My first reaction was just the same as yours, I didn't know what to do, so I rang the vet and talked to him about it.
In a nutshell, anyone landing on a sleeping dog will most likely be snapped at, and it certainly doesn't mean that the dog will now be a biter, it's just a matter of making sure that the dog has a place to sleep where it won't be disturbed - in our case, we got a fireguard and put the dog bed behind it so DC couldn't get to her - and as the DC grows up, reinforce that old proverb "let sleeping dogs lie". Our DC3 is now 4, has never been snapped at again, and the dog is his best friend! The vet told me that this wasn't a "bad dog" incident, it was a thoughtless owner (I'm talking about me here - not telling you you are a bad owner!)incident.
Please don't get rid of your dogs for one preventable mistake , just move on from it, and accept that your cuddling time with your sleeping dogs may have to wait til you DC is asleep.
Try not to feel uneasy about having them back - this really was an accident, and one that can easily be stopped from happening again. You sound like you really love your dogs, it would be a shame for your son to grow up without them when they are a big part of your life, and will be a massive part of his

mrsjuan Tue 06-Oct-09 21:07:55

Was it truly out of character for the dog? Only you know if it was an accident waiting to happen or if it was a one off.

Dogs can get very scared & snappy if they are unexpectedly woken up from a deep sleep - it is natural safety mechanism for them. It doesn't necessarily mean they will be snappy or aggressive in any other circumstance.

HKT Tue 06-Oct-09 21:11:58

I've read the other posts now, and I'm really, really upset at the advice you've been given - a sleeping dog will react completely differently to an awake dog - it's using it's instincts - most sleeping dogs, if jumped on/kicked etc will snap - and not because they're vicious.
Chances are, and I've certainly found this with my JR (and JR's have a far worse reputation than whippets) if they are poked and prodded by a toddler, they will move away - obviously you need to supervise your DS with the dogs, but even with the quietest dog, they should never be left alone together.
I'm so glad I didn't act on my first instincts with my dog - if I had, my son would have missed out on his relationship with her
Your dogs deserve a chance, but they need a place to sleep so that they can be undisturbed, and your son can learn to leave them alone
Please don't get rid of them for just one mistake

FlappyTheBat Tue 06-Oct-09 21:24:33

I stand by what I said in my earlier post, my dog is with us throughout the day and spends a large proportion of his time asleep.
He is crawled on, snuggled up to when he is asleep but just takes it all in his stride. Not once in his 5 years has ever snapped or bared his teeth to my dd's. He is a very very laid back lab though.

What would happen if your ds did something to your dogs that he wasn't expecting? - dogs don't just have to have been asleep and be woken up suddenly to snap as a reaction to a situation.

Knickers0nmaChoppedOffhead Tue 06-Oct-09 21:35:40

Agree with Flappy's last post.

Deaconwood Tue 06-Oct-09 21:37:48

Thanks for all the advice so far - it is really helpful.

If it helps to have a bit of background: in the past when DS has touched them (eg. ears or legs) they have always moved away with no signs of agression. The day it happened was at the end of several weeks of disruptive building work which had stressed us all out (including the dogs). However, this doesn't justify what the dog did and I am now so worried that he is feeling threatened/challenged by DS who is getting more active by the day.

HKT Tue 06-Oct-09 21:38:27

Black labs are very different in temperament to most other dogs, and will put up with anything.
Deaconwood, lots of big vet practises now have trained animal phsycologists, it would be worth talking to a trained professional about this incident before making a decision.
You said yourself at the beginning of your post "they have always been very gentle and cautious with him" - if they've shown no inclination of aggressiveness (sp?) before now, why would they again?
I'm sorry, I know I've got all worked up about this, but it's only because it is so exactly like our own incident 4 yrs ago, and, without critisising, it is an owner problem, not a dog problem (unless you have a labrador with the right temperament)
You've had a warning, luckily not a serious injury one, but it's one that can be learnt from.
Don't let your son grow up without these beautiful dogs without giving them a second chance.

mrsjuan Tue 06-Oct-09 21:40:01

I really don't think that dogs should be 'crawled on' etc. though. Even if your dog is usually laid back what if he happened to be ill or in pain?

A dog should have a safe place where he can go if he wants to have some peace and quiet.

I think children and dogs can have a fantastic relationship but there children need to be taught to respect the dog's sleeping place from an early age.

mrsjuan Tue 06-Oct-09 21:41:02

sorry - rogue 'there'

GhoulsAreLoud Tue 06-Oct-09 21:43:16

Can I ask why you are considering rehoming both of them and not just the one who did the snapping?

I ask only because we had two dogs - one who we trusted around our baby and one who we didn't. We rehomed the one we didn't trust and kept the one we did. It was fine.

girlsyearapart Tue 06-Oct-09 21:52:48

The trouble is many of the stories you see about dogs attacking children are from dogs who had previously been fine. It only takes once.

I would castrate them anyway.

If they're used to being in the house they won't take kindly to being crated will they? At least my dog wouldn't.

Re home the one who bit keep the other.

As hard as it would be it wouldn't be anywhere near as bad as if your child got bitten again.

Also disagree with the sleeping dog thing. If ours is asleep and the dds come near him he moves over to make room. (Staffie- male castrated) Doesn't snap.

girlsyearapart Tue 06-Oct-09 21:53:48

Forgot to ask what does baby's Dad reckon you should do?

Knickers0nmaChoppedOffhead Tue 06-Oct-09 21:54:37

Sorry HKT but I strongly disagree with what you are saying. Every single dog on this planet can attack, no matter what their breed. And yes, who's to say they won't do it again. But can you honestly say that you know your dog would never do it again?

Deaconwood Tue 06-Oct-09 22:08:56

They are brothers from the same litter and if we did re-home them I think it would be kinder for them to stay together. Also the non-guilty dog has shown snappy tendencies in the past (although never towards baby). They are such a double-act I couldn't imagine having one and not the other. If they go it has to be a clean break.

Re the crate in the outdoor workshop - they don't seem to mind as they were used to sleeping in a crate anyway.

DH is equally confused. Our first reaction was they had to go, but we were both so distraught at decision that we wanted to see if there were any other options. If I am honest, I think that if DH hadn't been so upset (v. out of character for him) then I would have found it easier to stick to the decision for them to go.

smackapacka Tue 06-Oct-09 22:16:11

I'm in the camp of trying to manage the situation appropriately. It must have been really frightening but the dog sounds as if he reacted as an absolute instinct as he was hurt. I think if the situation is managed correctly then everyone can learn to live together. We have a dog and my DD has grown up learning to have manners and respect him which IMHO is a good thing.

I used to have a Whippet X and I know they tend to be a gentle, shy breed who like to be left alone. Once you get used to a seperation regime I think you could make it work.

Follow your gut feeling though - only you know your dogs and your son.

HKT Tue 06-Oct-09 22:26:27

Every single dog on this planet can attack - but they don't do they?
I honestly know that my dog would never do it again because she has a safe place to sleep, all my children know that the dogs can be cuddled, played with, but not mauled, prodded or kicked, and none of them were left alone with her when they were too young to understand this - no child should ever be left alone with any dog - and this is responsible dog ownership, no dog should have to put up with a toddler climbing on it full stop (and why some mothers let their dc's do this is beyond me hmm)DC's need to understand that family dogs are not toys, or the consequences can be terrible.
A dog that is properly asleep (not just dozing so it knows to move out of the way) is very likely to snap if kicked (or any other sudden "attack")
My dog is 10 years old now, we have 3 children aged between 4 and 8. One incident in that time has not made her a biter - mine is living proof of that. Our vet told us that if she (our dog) had snapped when awake, that would be a different matter, but a sleeping dog snapping like that is not an excuse to call the dog vicious and untrustworthy, it just means that the owner needs to think about the dogs needs a little bit more.
It is responsible dog ownership to make sure that when dogs are mixing with children, they have a safe place to go, where the children do not touch it.
I know from experience that the first reaction is to get rid of the dog, but I'm so pleased that I turned to our vet, who specialises in dog behaviour and phsycology, for advice, rather than some hysterical mothers (please don't flame me, I'm not trying to offend, just get through to the OP)
Deaconwood - please, please, get some professional advice on this.

smackapacka Tue 06-Oct-09 22:29:17

Here Here HKT.

HKT Tue 06-Oct-09 22:30:25

Again, sorry for the long, emotional post
But please speak to someone who knows all about this before making a decision either way.
And sorry I called some of you hysterical mothers - in my defence I didn't mean it personally, just hoping Deaconwood speaks to someone who knows about dogs.

FlappyTheBat Tue 06-Oct-09 22:41:47

HKT, I was very concerned about bringing a newborn baby home to a house that had a puppy in it.

So much so that I made an appointment at my vets to discuss what behaviour I should look out for/be worried about.

Yes, she mentioned when dogs are sleeping and disturbed that they may snap. But she also said that most dogs wouldn't display this type of behaviour and if they did snap under these circumstances, then they might do it under others.

If they did snap under any circumstances, then you would have to question their suitability as a family pet. Children are unpredictable and despite your best intentions, you cannot control their every movement once they are past the baby stage.

She said that the precursor for a dog attacking a child, isn't just being disturbed when asleep, but the frequency of a child's voice or cry.

and for your information, I do know dogs very very well, not just because I have my own.

HKT Tue 06-Oct-09 22:59:22

Flappythebat, I'm not questioning your knowledge of dogs at all, and I'm sorry you've taken it that way. I have kept dogs my whole life, I have trained other peoples dogs, and I have taken on "problem" dogs from the local vets to help rehabilitate them to be rehomed, so I'm not talking out of my bottom either.
We had the same talk with our vet before our 1st was born, and were told similar things, but also that some breeds - in particular more nervy breeds like JR's (and whippets if the whippets I've met are anything to go by) need to be watched more carefully.
I still stand by what I said about not leaving dogs and toddlers alone together - even the most placid dog can bite under extreme circumstances.
All I'm saying is that on the back of one incident, the OPer cannot assume that the dog is untrustworthy - if she carried on as she has done, and the dc grows up being allowed to manhandle the dogs and jump on them when sleeping, then yes, she probably will have a problem on her hands, but by taking a few precautions - most of which should be in place anyway when dogs and toddlers are in the same house - it won't happen again.
Sorry, sorry, I've done it again, I'll get my coat now
Deaconwood, it's your decision to make, and yours alone, and I really am very sorry that I've gone on, and on, and on blush
I'll leave this post in peace now, I don't think I can say any more.

Deaconwood Wed 07-Oct-09 08:03:05

Thanks all for you help - it is really appreciated.

HKT - please don't worry for being over-emotional - it is such an incredibly emotive issue, especially if you've been there yourself. Your advice and FlappytheBats' are both right, but in different ways. Which is why the decision is so hard.

Yesterday I did speak to a dog trainer who felt that a policy of careful monitering/supervision was appropriate - although she was pregnant herself and said that in the same situation she would find it very hard too. If we keep them then they will be going on a dog training course with a local trainer who is a respected dog behaviourist. Our breeder's advice was also that a sleeping dog will always react differently.

What's do difficult is knowing that I am to blame for putting the dogs and baby in that position. I never left them alone together and we used baby gates etc to keep them apart when necessary. But I did allow the baby and dogs to be together under my supervision - eg. him on his playmat and them in their bed in the same room. If the siutation was inappropriate I'd close the gate of their crate.

Where things went wrong is that I never really considered that once he started getting more mobile that they couldn't continue to roam around each other, even under supervision. I'll never make the same mistake again, but I worry that in a small house that it could happen again.

I wish I knew what to do! The only way I can be certain of th future is if they leave - the other option leaves so many unknowns. Whichever route I take feels wrong.

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