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Babywearing vs. Strollering: Considerations when dog walking with babies
Up until the birth of our daughter last year, our two Shepherd-ish dogs enjoyed walks on a regular basis, pretty exclusively with me. For years beforehand I would wake up hours before going to work (to my job as a fulltime dog walker) & take each one of my dogs on a walk. As you can imagine, I really like walking dogs. Once we knew we were expecting, I knew I had to do some thinking, scheming, & practicing new things, to ensure that dog walking was still an enjoyable part of our future with a mini human.
When you have an infant, baby or young child, and you want to take your dog on a walk your two best options are to either bring your baby in a stroller or babywear with a carrier of some type. There are definite pros and cons to each choice. Before deciding what’s going to be the best choice for you, the most important thing to do first is to make sure you really know your dog, and you really know your environment. It’s important to be able to predict, with confidence how your dog will act in any of the potential situations you could experience while dog walking and how having a baby with you will impact those situations.
For example: How does your dog react to passing by or seeing another dog? Does your dog like to jump at birds & squirrels? What about bikes and skateboards? How likely are you to encounter a stray dog where you’ll be walking? Where will you be walking? Your familiar neighborhood, a downtown area, or maybe hiking trails?
Whether you choose to babywear, or take a stroller with you on your dog walks with your baby, other humans will look at you. They’ll talk to you, they’ll wave to you. They might even approach you. Will your dog be comfortable with this?
If you live in a neighborhood where stray or off leash dogs are common, it’s important to know how your dog reacts in this situation. Dog treats, deterrent spray (like citronella) & a cell phone are always must-haves when I leave the house with my dogs. Should you encounter a loose dog, it’s important to have a plan on how to manage this situation as safely as possible. Consider taking walks in a different neighborhood if you are concerned about meeting unfamiliar dogs.
On most days my preferred choice is babywearing, but I must confess babywearing is something I really enjoy outside of dog walking. There are lots of different options when it comes to types of carriers you can use with your baby. Some are pieces of material wrapped around your body, some are like slings, and then some are structured like a backpack that you buckle or tie on. There are excellent benefits for parent & child bonding when babywearing.
Babywearing means that I have two hands available when walking a dog. I dish out a lot of treats while walking. It helps keep my dogs interested and attentive to me. Wearing a bait bag stocked with good stuff is a must on my walks. I take this with me whether I’m using a stroller or carrying the baby. If I’m babywearing, my phone and keys can also fit in my bait bag, or I can usually stick them in the front pocket of my carrier.
Babywearing always seemed easiest for me when my daughter was first born. It was also the winter time (& in Detroit we have some serious winter!) and there wasn’t any way I could have possibly pushed a stroller through the ice & snow. Plus I always felt the baby & I were warmer when we were attached to each other. The down side to this is you have to use a lot of caution where you step when babywearing, especially during the winter months. If you slip & fall, the baby falls with you. This is another reason why it’s important to know your dog. If your dog reacts to certain things you may pass, and might lunge or pull hard on a leash, it may make you more likely to fall.
Unlike strollering, babywearing can come with a bit of a learning curve. If it’s something you’re looking to try, I recommend trying out different types of carriers and finding one that feels comfortable when you’re wearing it. (If you don’t have a local shop or babywearing group nearby, YouTube is an excellent resource for videos on how to carry your baby.) Practice putting it on and taking it off, then practice putting it on and taking it off with your baby BEFORE you set out for a walk. It can take some practice to feel like you’ve got a good grip on your balance, something you want to feel good about when you’re out walking your dog. It’s also a good idea to get your dog used to seeing you wearing your baby. Your movements will be different. If your dog seems spooked by this new contraption you’re wearing (that may also cry & move around) you’ll want to know this before you start walking.
Strollering itself might not seem like something that requires much practice, but I promise the practice is worth it. It’s hard to practice babywearing while you’re pregnant, especially once you get into the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Things don’t fit you how they will once the baby is born. At a certain point, it is impossible to practice wearing a carrier in front of you, because the front of you is being taken up by a future person. During the later parts of pregnancy, practicing with a stroller however, is totally possible.
I remember when the stroller I picked out finally came in the mail. I was super excited to get it out of the giant box and check it out. Once I got all the pieces put in the right place, I gave it a quick push around the living room & one of my dogs ran the other direction. She wouldn’t go anywhere near it. This new piece of baby equipment was scary to her. For several weeks before the baby was born I practiced walking around the house, yard & driveway with a doll in the stroller until my scared dog wasn’t scared of the stroller anymore.
When our horrendous long winter finally ended and hot sun finally returned babywearing stopped being as comfortable for us. While it kept me warmer during the frigid months, babywearing can get really hot & sweaty in the summer. A few moms in a local babywearing group suggested sticking a cold pack in the front pocket. I think it keeps the baby a bit cooler but I don’t know that it has much cooling affect for me. There are some carriers that are designed for warmer climates that are made of material that tends to breathe easier.
As much as I LOVE babywearing, I also really enjoy taking my daughter out for a stroll. Strollering means there are less things to physically carry. Theres a storage compartment where I can toss a poo bag until we get home or pass by a trash can (picking up poo while wearing your child, can also be an acquired skill). Good leash walking skills are just as important when strollering. When using the stroller, the last thing you want to happen is to tip over because your dog decided to chase a bird. Practice walking down the street with a doll, or a sack of potatoes (which weighs closer to a real human than a doll) so that you feel comfortable holding a dog leash & holding onto your stroller. Never tie a dog leash to your stroller. Strollering can be great if you like to walk your dog and enjoy a much needed cup of coffee! Baby carriers don’t come equipped with a cup holder. I think my daughter also likes riding along in a stroller and being able to see one of her dogs walking next to her.
There are definite pros and cons to each choice. Both require practice. Sometimes I take the stroller out and shove my carrier in the storage basket so if the baby starts crying I have the option to take her out and carry her home. Some children just don’t like to be worn or they outgrow enjoying it before they are able to walk with us on their own two feet. Some children get to a certain age & they want to be able to face forward and see the world around them & their best view is from a stroller (there are very few carriers on the market that can safely carry a forward facing infant).
Whichever option you choose, make sure it is the one that you feel most comfortable and safe choosing. The safety of you, your child & your dog are all important when taking a dog walk. I typically restrict my dog walks with baby to only certain areas that I am very familiar with. When I want to explore somewhere new, I might take only a dog or only a baby, so that I have less to manage while getting to know new surroundings. I’m also a big advocate for the “one dog at a time” dog walk. Managing multiple dogs when walking with your baby can be extra chaos (plus it’s good for dogs who live together to have some alone time). While dog walking with a baby is a new skill, with a little practice and preparation, your new family dog walks can be something really fun enjoyable for everyone.
Certified Dog Trainer, Association of Professional Dog Trainers member
Parent & Family educator with Family Paws Parent Education
This week is national dog bite prevention week. This week take time to learn about dog body language. The more you know about how a dog communicates with subtle gestures the better you will be able to respond appropriately. As a parent this is VERY important. Not only will you increase safety for your child but you will be modeling better responses for them to learn from. Talk about setting up everyone for success! Let’s get started!
Below is a link to an Amazing article written by Amy Martin one of our FPPE Advisors. In it you will find a link to our 5 types of supervision video and so much more! You may also want to JOIN us this week for our Dogs & Toddlers webinar! Let’s build bonds and learn together!
It is important all expectant families surround themselves with as much support as possible. This week is world doula week. Doulas are an important part of an expectant families support system. Doulas offer a wide range of skills focused on meeting the desires and needs of each family member before, during and after birth. Lack of sleep, new responsibilities, and changes in daily routines can cause a whole new level of stress for new parents. Often this level of stress can lead people to feel that they just do not have enough to give to their family dog. It is very common to hear young parents say that their dog might be “better off” in another home. Without rest, ample time to recover and ongoing support a family may rush to the decision of rehoming their dog. This decision often is one a family will regret. The knowledge and support a doula offers can really help decrease stress as a couple eases into parenthood. A less stressed environment is good for Mom, Dad, baby and the family dog. We are grateful for all the wonderful doulas out there! Below is a our Postpartum and family dogs webinar.
Each New Year’s Eve we prepare our home and our dogs for the different experience of the exciting evening ahead. Some years we have had a house full of varrying ages of kids. Crates, KONGs in rooms, gates etc in place always were our theme.
This year things will be a bit calmer. Although we are planning on a fairly calm evening. We are still expecting several teenagers sleeping over. One of our senior dogs needs to be managed as he is not comfortable with lots of people in our home. We know and accept his limitations but also want to allow our kids the freedom to have friends over on this special night.
Acceptance and solution.
Our boy has a life long friend that he adores. This year we have planned to have him spend this busy night away so that he can relax and be stress free while the kids and their friends come and go. Previously we were able to crate or secure our boy in a room with a great meaty bone or frozen goodie but with age this has become harder for him.
Please keep in mind as you prepare for you New Year festivities that as we celebrate a new year…your dog has also aged a year. He or she may be less tolerant of what they were a year ago. If you are also enjoying many guests please plan ahead and take into consideration what you may need to adapt for your dog/s to help them be comfortable and safe as you enjoy welcoming in 2015! Check out this excellent blog post for some tips! Happy New Year!
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A cute baby learning to crawl with the family dog watching. What could be more adorable, right!? Add a little music and a great title and capture hearts all over the world! There is always the “awww” factor that romances us…no doubt about it. We love seeing different species living together in harmony.
We add our own storylines and our own interpretations to what we see other species doing. Sometimes our human interpretations are correct, but often they are not. As humans, we naturally interpret dog behavior in light of the human emotions that we are familiar with. We tend do this in place of actually observing what dogs are communicating through their own canine body language. Often the focus is on what we want to be seeing the dog do, rather than what we are actually seeing the dog do.
The most recent dog and baby video that went viral has great elements to talk about and to consider. Is this cute? safe? Why does it matter?
Lets take a look at the ingredients that caused this video to go viral.
Many images and videos that go viral have these same ingredients. I invite you to look past the emotional magnets of these types of media and consider what happens outside of the “Kodak moment.” Will the expectation be that this dog or any other should respond the same way?
Let’s think for a moment about the daily child encounters/interactions that we expose our dogs to repeatedly. How much is enjoyed? Tolerated? Put up with because our dog would like to be with his adults but maybe not the baby?
We offer a monthly webinar for families on this fun and important topic called Crawling babies…conflicted dogs. Here are just some things to consider about this exciting crawling stage.
Crawling is a huge milestone celebrated by parents and babies! It opens up an exciting new world of exploration and opportunity for baby! This can be a major game changer for family dogs who have, until this stage, adjusted beautifully to life with baby.
Dogs rely on body language. Baby’s body language changes dramatically with this change in mobility. A baby crawling toward a dog is now approaching the dog head on at eye level. This can be very unsettling for even the most relaxed of family dogs.
Why is crawling so unsettling for dogs? Oh, so many potential reasons. Think about it…it is even unsettling for the human parents at times!
Crawling babies are eager, oddly unpredictable, little humans on the floor. They are now sharing the same floor space that was formerly reserved just for the dog. This little human is now directly facing and approaching the family dog’s space in an unpredictable manner. Often babies want to approach and grab the dog or reach toward the dog and crowd the dog’s space. This can be very distressing for many dogs.
Has anyone explained this new development to the dog? How is a dog supposed to learn that an approaching eye-level baby is “safe” or non-threatening? We expect that dogs will accept this stage since they have done so well with the infant stage but…what we don’t account for is that now our dog may feel truly threatened and may have become fearful of the crawling baby or at least very conflicted about how to respond to the newly mobile baby. Dogs really need to rely on the adults in the home to give them guidance at these times.
This video stirred up a great subject. We could talk all day about what I see or feel about this particular video but that really is not important. What is important is that we reevaluate our expectations of dogs during this fast paced, gross motor developmental stage and provide tools for both dog and baby to feel safe and comfortable.
We are so excited about Family Paws Parent Education exhibition in Northern Ireland this evening for Sure Start. There was lots of interest in the Dogs And Storks Programme. Great job Gabrielle Dunne for getting word out. We have an awesome team in Ireland great education ahead! Awesome to see so much interest and families excited to prepare proactively for parenting with a baby and family dog!
Crates, gates, and indoor tethers are some of the management options i will discuss with families in our first visit. it is common for families to have put away crates and gates once the dog has matured. When I bring up the topic of management people are surprised and often resistant at first to the idea of a crate being reintroduced to their older dog. It is common for people to associate crates and gates with puppies not older dogs. I have found that talking to families about setting their dogs up for long term success as their family gows really helps them to understand the many wonderful uses of crates, gates, indoor tethers and even a closed bedroom. Over the years I started to refer to these various types of management as “Success Stations.” I like this as we use these specific spots as places where the dog is guaranteed ti succeed. We introduce all success station in a positive and fun way. No all success stations are right for all dogs. This is why it is best to work with your dog early in your pregnancy. Ideally families keep success stations active throughout the life of their dog and not just during puppy-hoood.
***One of the most common challenges for families is when their baby begins to crawl and separation is needed and the family dog has not been been gradually introduced to a success station. This leads to frustration for everyone. This can be avoided with preparation ahead of time. Practicing short separation from your dog while you are in your home in another room can help your dog learn to be comfortable when separated. A great resource to help you with this is can be found here! Please don’t wait until you need to separate…practice before you need to. If you are going to have kids in your home even visiting…especially visiting…you will need to be able to separate your dog comfortably!
We want to celebrate the 4th of July by offering great special offers on some of our wonderful webinar recordings. These recordings are packed with valuable information that you will immediately find helpful.
Here are the special offers! Share with friends!
The Best Family Dog 1 hour by Colleen Pelar $9.99
Family Dogs & Grandkids. Perfect webinar for holidays and family gatherings! 1 hour recorded webinar with Jennifer Shryock
New Baby and Family dog…setting up for success Webinar with Jennifer Shryock 1 hour.