Learning Experience

This is a post I’ve held while debating on whether or not to let it go “live.”, the day it happened, I knew we’d have to tell the story, but each time I thought about it, my stomach wound into knots.  What if it we aren’t able to articulate it as a positive?  What if the words are regurgitated in a negative way?  I even considered editing a bit, but in the end, it is what it is and too many people I talk to don’t understand that a growl is a good thing.  What if, what if, what if…
But the bottom line is, it happened, we recognized it and can even be that much better  to have had the experience and since Asia was there, she has decided to tell the story.

It all happened so quickly that afterwards I almost thought it was a dream. My heart was pounding as I held my daughter close. I’m an overprotective Mom.  Even my own mom teases me about it being a wonder that I made it to the age I am since I sometimes give her “suggestions” when she is watching Baby, but I can’t help it. 

I think all dog owners with small children worry about an incident happening and we did a lot of work with a trainer in anticipation of Baby’s arrival. When I was pregnant I had no idea how Ray would react to a baby and because he was such a high maintenance puppy, I prepared myself for the worst, but in my heart I knew our loving Ray-Ray would be gentle with her. He might be confused with her arrival, since HE was the baby of the house but I knew he would learn and grow to love her, after all, we were prepared.


Ray mostly hangs out in the kitchen and living room area, but Baby and I have been spending more and more time with him in there as well as him roaming the house freely. Baby was sitting on the floor while I was sitting above her on the couch and Ray was lying on the floor near us. Any time Baby starts to crawl towards Ray; I pick her up and redirect her. He gets nervous easily and I don’t want to push their relationship too fast. This time I wasn’t quick enough. I looked away for a second, and Baby had crawled over to Ray who was licking a sore spot on his back leg. I stood up to get the baby, and in that same moment she grabbed his leg and Ray jumped up and made a sound; a growl and bared his teeth. I picked Baby up and we were both shaken. I smacked Ray’s butt and yelled “bad!”  (I know, I know!) Then I left the room as he slinked under the kitchen table, his safe spot.

Ray did not touch her and he would not have even if I didn’t pick her up. He had been startled and I knew that he was just giving her a warning, “My legs are sensitive and you pushed my limit” but it scared me, obviously. Afterwards I called my mom and she explained that it was a good sign that he showed this warning. By him doing that it helps us know what his boundaries are. He was not trying to hurt the baby; he just wanted to ask her not to do that. I went back in the kitchen with the baby and saw Ray lying on his mat under the table looking sad. I felt horrible. I shouldn’t have yelled at him, because really what he did wasn’t bad at all. I got a treat and coaxed him out of his safe zone; pet him and let him give the baby a kiss.  I’m thankful that my mom has done a tremendous job training Ray and that he is so loving and patient with the baby.  Our cats are extremely patient with her as well; I couldn’t ask for more from them. 

Yes, what happened shocked and scared me, but after the fact it was a great Learning Experience.
I’m glad Ray shows us signs and that he didn’t bite or hurt her in any way.  Some dogs would skip the warning and do harm first and I know that we want him to continue to show us his limits and I know to allow him his space.
As a new mom and new part-dog owner, I encourage people that are introducing a baby to a pet to take it slow and be patient.  You can’t expect the animal to understand right away what you want.  And you also can’t expect the baby or small child to know how to treat a dog.  As my daughter grows up I look forward to teaching her how to treat all animals the right way; with care, caution, and respect.  Animals are not toys and they deserve to be treated like a human being, in my opinion.

9 thoughts on “Learning Experience

  1. It's a scary situation to have a dog growl and show teeth, however, you stated it perfectly and know that what Ray did was give the baby a warning. He was uncomfortable and that is how dogs communicate.

    I'm sure in time Ray and the baby are going to be best mates!

  2. I hope you took some deep cleansing breaths! That is a scary, tough situation because you want both your babies to be safe and I'm glad you shared it! I think as dog owners, we have to always be in training mode. The fact is, Ray and the baby's relationship is going to continue to evolve, crawling will become walking will become running. Everyday they will learn new things about the other and that's an awesome thing. You will not get every single moment right. That is where trusting Ray will come to play, and it seems that Ray is helping you with that! I read recently that one of the most important things we can do for our dogs, especially with kids around, is to let them know it's OK to get up and leave the room. When baby crawls toward you, you can go if you want. That gives the dog tools to help you, help them! Just a thought for continued, future success.

  3. Thanks Em. The whole story was hard to tell from the snap to the slap. My stomach has been in a knot all morning. Ray and the baby really are good friends and we adults just try to be mindful of where she is headed to try to keep Ray safe and try to make him feel protected as well.

  4. Absolutely, right. I always try to encourage Ray to go to his safe spot and keep that sacred. The baby has her champion in her mama and Ray has me. I, of course, want them both to be safe and happy.

    I saw a video recently where a child was bouncing on a rottie and the dog was visibly upset. I would never ask Ray to “take it.” Hey, even I need to walk away and have space sometimes!

  5. Shiner will give warnings to my children occasionally. I hate it, but it is a good thing to have warnings. When it happens, it is mostly just a very low and quiet growl. It has helped me learn her boundaries and she has never hurt either of them. Most of the time, it is food related or you're just getting on my nerves so go away.

  6. Don't sweat too much on it! As you know it is a good thing that Ray growled, this way the next time you know how to prevent the same situation.

    I don't have that much experience with babies. I just think the best thing is just make shure to never leave the baby near Ray when no body is looking. Some dogs might not be use to be handled by little children, and of course little children are too small to understand their own force.

    There is a great book by Brenda Aloff about Canine Body Language. You should get it, believe me it is a great read. Learning a dog's body language is so important to be able to prevent unwanted situations.

    Hugs <3

  7. You are right that Ray did a good thing. Pups that give a good, clear warning are much safer than the ones that don't. Growling sounds scary, but it's not always a bad thing. I'm glad everyone was okay!

  8. Such a great way to look at this situation. We're really glad you shared! The pooches don't get much interaction with kids, but do see Sam's nieces and nephew on occasions. It really is so important to know where the dogs' boundaries are (for Ed, we have to make sure his excitement stays low!), but also to teach the kids to understand what the dogs are trying to tell them!!

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