Welcoming a baby home to a family with a dog needs to be done well, with safety for your baby the number one priority.
Dogs and young children should always be supervised, regardless of whether they have grown up with the dog, or are meeting the dog for the first time.
In the past few weeks the media have reported two young children admitted to hospital with dog bite marks on their face and neck.
The statistics show that in South Australia children between zero and nine years old are highly represented in dog attacks, with one in five dog attack victims admitted to hospital under 10 years old.
Dog and Cat Management Board chair Dr Felicity-ann Lewis said these days many people are having their first baby in their thirties, meaning that pets are often well established in the family unit before babies come along.
“A dog’s routine, lifestyle and environment will be affected with the arrival of a new baby. This can lead to anxiety in the dog,” Dr Lewis said.
“Young children also like to explore their environment. A pulled tail or even a tight hug can cause the dog to react.
“Dog training is equally about training the owner as it is about training the dog, and it creates a strong bond between both.
“It is important that dog owners socialise and train their dogs from a young age and learn what their dog's body language means.
“It is also important to start preparing pets as soon as possible for a new baby in the house. For example, excluding them from rooms, introducing new smells and noises, as well as a slowly introducing a change to the amount of time and attention you give your dog.”
Social media has given rise to the sharing of videos and photos of dogs unknowingly being put in situations with children that test their fight or flight reactions to capture a cute moment.
Dr Lewis said owners need to know their dog, their body language and understand their warning signs to avoid a dog bite and the potentially devastating effects to a child.
“It is vital that owners have a plan of how to introduce their dog and baby, always supervise children with the dog and give the dog space immediately when they show warning signs,” Dr Lewis said.
All dog attacks or harassments should be reported to the local council for investigation. The statewide database - Dogs and Cats Online - contains permanent records of all incidents reported, allowing all South Australian councils access to the pet’s history.