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.
- Adorable baby
- Cute dog
- Triumphant Music
- Effective heartwarming title
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.