July 8, 2014
The most appropriate and safest “dog with baby” or “dog with kid” photography might not ever make it to BuzzFeed.
Pause from reading this and jump over to Rover-Time’s Facebook photos. Better yet, if we’re connected, scan my profile’s photos and keep count of how many “cutesy” images or videos you can find. I’m talking toddler raising a dog’s jowls or just laying there making locked eye contact with the animal; or maybe a baby propped up against a dog, or a toddler using the living creature as a step stool to wash his hands.
I know my wedding photos are enticing but if I got you back after your close examination of both pages, I’m going to get serious for sec and share my personal decision with you: I intentionally and very consciously opt to not share, take, or post inappropriate baby/dog photos because I believe there’s a serious risk when you encourage dangerous behavior that is misunderstood as cute.
Instead of laughing at these pictures and videos of kids and dogs in precarious situations, it’s critical to think objectively about the situation and decide if it involves an interaction that’s appropriate for children and dogs together. It’s also important to note if the dog’s body language is communicating enjoyment or discomfort.
Dogs show several subtle signals of uneasiness. We’ve talked about this on the blog in a couple of different places. A stressed-out dog may lick his lips, close his mouth tightly, lower his tail, or turn his head away. But a lot pet owners aren’t familiar with these signs, and only identify the dog’s discomfort when it escalates to a growl, a snap, or even a bite. Too often parents say that a dog bit “without a warning,” when in reality, the dog was exhibiting warning signs all along. Mistaking these cues really can lead to a serious injury, particularly if it’s a small child who gets bitten.
As pet owners, we redirect unwanted behavior from our dogs, whether it be jumping up, digging, or barking. On the other hand, we think it’s cute when our children do things to our pets that cause the animals to be upset and afraid. Dogs are expected to tolerate our behavior and that of our children, without any negative reaction.
As much as we love them, we need to remember that our dogs are animals and not people. That’s not an insult; we just ask a lot of our dogs. We place them in situations and environments that aren’t natural to them and then we ignore all the ways they tell us that they need an out. Instead of treating them with respect, we expect them to adapt. And it’s not fair.
BEFORE YOU CLICK “POST” OR “SHARE” CONSIDER THIS SHORT LIST:
- The situation shouldn’t demonstrate something that is unsafe, no matter if the dog looks like it’s the best day of his or her life.
- Propping a baby near a dog does not prove anything about that dog’s patience, other than a little of that patience is being used up for a photo op.
- A dog shouldn’t be that interested in a baby. His or her focus belongs on its owner.
- Is this an example for others to imitate? Everyone should take more responsibility for they share online.
SO WHAT DOES AN APPROPRIATE BABY/CHILD WITH DOG PHOTO LOOK LIKE?
- Dog looks reasonably relaxed.
- The infant is safely held or contained, with no physical contact between the baby and dog.
- You could take a marker and draw a line between the dog and the kid, if you wanted. They aren’t intertwined.
- The dog and kid are side-by-side. Not face-to-face.
- The child is doing his or her own thing with dog sociably present in the room, showing no signs of distress.
- If the kid is touching the dog, his or her hand should only be along the closest side (not going over the back in any form of a hug).
The safety and well being of our children and our dogs should be our top priority in every situation. You can still get adorable photos of your child and your dog, without compromising anyone’s safety. In the end, those are the moments you’ll really want to remember and record.
Julia Rohan founded Rover-Time in January of 2012 and received her formal training at CanineLink, a program for aspiring dog trainers, based in Chicago. Julia lives in Albany Park with her husband Mark. Together they co-parent Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff, an over-confident, territorial, and anxious 8lb. Chihuahua-Terrier mix that melts her heart hourly.