Constant supervision of the interactions between the animals and young children in a Ridgeville home may have prevented the tragic death of a 2-month-old last week.
"No matter how long you've owned your dog, or what type of dog it is, without active supervision, it's not a safe situation," Susan Marett said.
Marett, owner and founder of Purely Positive Dog Training, has been training dogs for about 17 years. Her company offers myriad training sessions that focus on understanding dog behavior. In addition to helping dog owners get through puppyhood or teaching their canines tricks, Purely Positive also has begun to offer classes for dog owners who are expecting a baby or with small children.
"Most dogs will let you know if they are comfortable around small children," she said. "You need to be able to read your dog's body language."
The company is working with the Charleston Animal Society to offer two programs focusing on controling the interactions between dogs and small children in the home. Both programs will begin in May, but registration for the classes is open now through CAS. Both programs will be taught at the Charleston Animal Society at 2455 Remount Road in North Charleston.
Dogs and Diapers focuses on helping expecting parents get their pets ready for the new family member. The 4-week course is the only one Purely Positive offers that includes the parents, the family dog(s) and infants up to 6 month old, Instructor Heather Moore said.
"We focus on issues to relieve stress, how to manage situations safely," Moore said. "Get all the baby equipment out early, expose the dog to the stroller and the diaper bag and everything else because they haven't seen it before."
Moore said new parents need to be in complete control of thier pet and have a safe zone set up for the dog, somewhere they can send to dog where it will be comfortable and wait for it's owners on command. For example if a parent needs to change a baby's diaper and the only place to do happens to be on the floor, they need to be able to make sure the dog will stay out of the way.
"You need 100 percent active supervision," Moore said. "You need a place where the dog is safe, a safe happy place for the dog to go."
One of the most important parts of the lessons, Moore said, is to teach dog owners how to read their pet's body language, and how to react before a problem arises.
"Not every dog is going to be happy and love the baby like you do," she said.
The Dogs and Diapers session will run 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays beginning May 15 at the Charleston Animal Society. The cost is $80, $68 for CAS members.
For parents with slightly older children Purely Positive and CAS are also offering a training course for parents called Toddlers and the Family Dog for $20. That course, a single session 6:30 - 8 p.m., Thursday, May 17, is part of a nationwide program called Dog and Baby Connection offers positive, practical, and fun solutions to challenges that often arise in families with dogs during a child’s early development years.
"You can do so much with preparation," Marett said. "Get all the new baby stuff out and get them used to it. They make noises, they move, they bounce, they do all kinds of things that can be stressfull for a dog."
Marett said even before a new baby arrives, dog owners can help ease the coming transition for thier pet by holding a doll, like they will their baby once he or she arrives, while they work on voice commands with their pet. The main thrust of the training is to make the dog comfortable with the changes that will be coming and to start on it before the new baby arrives so the transition is as smooth as possible.
In addition to the sessions offered through CAS, Purely Positive offers training sessions of all sorts across the Charleston Metro area.