I was honored to be able to present my first Dog & Baby Connection class at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Florida last month.  The program is new to the area and will become a regular class offered by the hospital next year.  The Dog & Baby Connection offers information on how to successfully integrate young children and the family dog into a household safely and with as little stress as possible.

One of the topics that the program covers is the importance of appropriate supervision when living in a combined household of young children and dogs.  The program breaks supervision into 5 levels: Absent,  Distracted,  Reactive, Proactive, and Full Awake supervision. Taking a look at each level helps to remind parents of the importance of paying attention anytime canines and kids are together.

The use of absent supervision is something that most parents would never intentionally do. Leaving a young child alone with a dog is never a safe option and the program reminds parents that absent supervision should never be allowed.

Distracted supervision is what gets most parents into trouble. Parents may be in the same room with their child and dog, but are busy emailing, watching TV, reading, texting, etc.  It is so easy to become distracted with today’s technology that  parents are physically in the room but mentally very absent.  It is important for parents to remember to pay attention to what is happening around them at all times.

Reactive supervision can be defined as “the panic mode”.  Parents yell or scream or rush towards the dog and a child when they think something may go wrong. This often backfires as dogs learn through association. We want children to equal good things in the dog’s world.  We remind parents to stay calm and redirect either the child or the dog if they find themselves in a “stressful” situation.

Proactive supervision will make a parent’s life the easiest.  If they plan ahead….setting  up crates or areas where kids and dogs are safe from each other, it gives busy parents options.    Teaching children how to appropriately interact with dogs is also proactive.  Give children guided direction when it comes to dogs.  Providing plenty of outlets for your dogs throughout the day helps as well. The more prepared parents are and the more options they have, the less stressful the day should be.

Full Awake Supervision is what we want anytime we have dogs and children together in a room…..we need a parent’s full attention so that they can  know exactly where both dog and child are at all times and they can pay attention to any interactions that may occur between them.

Using proactive and full awake supervision helps lower the risks of bites and unwanted stress in the household shared by children and canines.

The Dogs & Baby Connection program is available to groups or individuals and can be  in the form of a lecture/powerpoint presentation or a private in-home consultation.  Check out the Family Paws website at for more information.