Does your dog sleep in your room? Does your dog sleep on your bed? Are you thinking about becoming parents or are you pregnant already? Have you just had your newborn and wondering if what you are doing with your dog’s sleeping arrangements is safe? The main question at hand is – is it safe to sleep with your dog and newborn baby in the same room?
I am going to start out by saying, I know this is a sensitive topic for many, so please know that this is my recommendation, and you can take it or leave it but I am always going to tell you guys that safety comes first. I am sure many people have their dogs sleeping in their rooms with their newborns and have no problems. However, we can’t forget that dogs are a different species to us. No matter how much we love or trust our dogs and feel they are a part of the family, they are still dogs! They have natural animal instincts. They can be unpredictable if provoked or spooked and as much as we never want to imagine it, shit can happen. So yes, being proactive can save a life! And you’ve already taken the first step by reading this article, so well done!
Just last week there was a case in the news of a five week old baby being mauled to death at 2am by the family dog. Although I don’t have any more details on exactly the situation of how this all unfolded, it definitely sparked my desire to write this article for you guys. Being made aware of the risks involved with having a dog and baby in the room together when parents are sleeping is important. Thinking and planning ahead for bringing your new baby home is going to make things so much easier for everyone. And that is what I am here to help you think about today.
Let’s start out by discussing the Importance of Supervision
When we talk about babies and dogs, all you ever hear people say is “never leave the dog and baby alone together” or “supervise supervise supervise”. But what does this actually look like? And how does this work if we are sleeping?
Different Types of Supervision
According to Family Paws Parent Education there are five different types of supervision and it is up to us dog owners and parents/guardians to really become aware of the impacts of each of them.
- Absent Supervision: child and dog together without any adult eyes watching them. This includes if an adult has fallen asleep. This should never happen. If the adult is sleepy, use proactive supervision.
- Passive Supervision: Everyone multitasks these days. Are you really watching your child and dog when chatting away on the phone, or when on your computer sending that email? This is such an easy one for parents to do. However, parents must be made aware of how dangerous this can be.
- Reactive Supervision: This is when a parent reacts to the child or dog approaching one another. You don’t want it to get to this point. But it happens! Dog might hear the baby cry or startle and run in to see what it is. Rather than reacting negatively to the dog, we want to redirect the dog away in a calm positive manner. We do this as we don’t want the dog to associate the baby in a negative way and visa versa once your baby is on the move.
- Proactive Supervision: When you know you cannot actively supervise, implementing management tools is how you can be proactive, things like baby gates, crates, playpens, closing doors, putting the dog outside, using a lead, Supervising 24/7 is impossible and exhausting for everyone, including the dog! Every house that has children and a dog in it, must have a safe place for the dog to be able to escape to if they feel the need or for you to put them there when you can’t be actively supervising.
- Active Supervision: This is the best type of supervision and is when two adult eyes are focused on dog and child, the parent is present in the moment and they know what to look for.
I can’t talk about Supervision without making mention of the importance of understanding dog body language. Because, what does supervision mean if we don’t know what to look for in our dogs? If we don’t understand when a dog is stressed out, supervision is useless, isn’t it?
One of my biggest goals in the work I do is to make dog owners and parents aware of how their dogs are communicating and then how they can become their dogs best advocate in those times when they are feeling uneasy, stressed, anxious or scared. Dog bites don’t come from nowhere. There is always a warning. But we need to learn what these are. I’m not going to go into it too much today, so please make sure to have a read of this article above. My point here, is that when we are asleep or even in a very dark room in the middle of the night, it is going to be impossible to be able to see how your dog is feeling, so you are more likely to miss the warning signs.
Night time usually equals absent supervision!
When parents are asleep, they are not actively supervising dog and baby, so this is called absent supervision and unfortunately this is where the majority of risks occur.
Also when parents are awake overnight, they are usually feeding their baby or trying to settle the baby back to sleep – I know from personal experience with three of my own, that as parents, you also totally doze in and out of sleep when feeding, changing and trying to settle a baby in the middle of the night. The room is usually very dark at this point. Again, this is not active supervision and can be a dangerous/risky situation if there is a dog with you too.
So Back to The Big Question…
Is it Safe to Sleep with your Dog and Newborn Baby in the Same Room?
In short, without management, the answer from me is a NO!
But, with the correct management in place there are safe ways to do this.
There are lots of options available and I am going to list a few that I recommend and a few that my clients have opted for themselves…
- The best and safest option of all is to move dog out of bed room into its own safe place: for dogs that do well with separation, I recommend moving them far away from your room so they can get a good night sleep when you have a newborn. Being able to close your bedroom door with your dog in another room when you are all asleep is by far the safest option. This still may need to be a slow and gradual process so preparing ahead of time before the baby comes will be incredibly helpful for you and your dog.
- Move dog out of bed room where they can still see you: Gradually and slowly we can transition your dog to its own safe place to sleep just outside your room. If your dog doesn’t cope well with separation, gradually moving them outside your room so they can still see you but are behind a baby gate. So long as they cannot jump over the gate. If you have a large dog or a super jumpy dog, this still may not be a safe option. You could look into getting a special tether for your dog so they are secured overnight and cannot jump over the gate. We just need to ensure that if something were to happen, the dog cannot get to the baby.
- You can put your dog in a crate or play pen in your room. For those who insist that dogs stays in their room, I recommend at least transitioning the dog off the bed and confining them so they are safe and cannot get to the baby if and when baby is being fed overnight in bed or having a nappy changed. Not all dogs enjoy being in a crate, but if your dog is crate trained or you are willing to put in the work to crate train your dog, then this is a great option for you. If not, a play pen is another option, as long as there is room in your bedroom and the dog can’t jump out. Again using a tether here could be helpful for larger or more jumpy dogs. Make sure with either option, that you put the crate/playpen on the opposite side of the room to the baby in the bassinet.
- Put the baby bassinet behind a gate or in a play pen in your room: If you have your dog in your bed and insist they stays there, how can we make sure baby is safe? A dog on the bed can literally jump into the bassinet if the bassinet is next to the bed. So, how can we prevent this? Do you have an ensuite or a walk in robe? If so you could put the bassinet in there behind a baby gate. You could also build a playpen around the bassinet. You would need to ensure this is far enough away from the bed so the dog cannot jump over. Again, I would make sure to have this setup well before the baby arrives so your dog can adjust and you can see if there are any potential risks with the new setup.
- Baby and one parent to sleep in a different room: One of my clients was so adamant on keeping her dogs in her bed that she put a mattress in the nursery and she slept in the nursery whilst her hubby stayed in the bed with the dogs for the first few weeks of bringing the baby home. She also but a baby gate on her bedroom door and the nursery door to ensure double safety, in case the dogs wanted to get to her overnight.
In summary, the safest option is to have the dog in another room, I know it’s an incredibly hard thing for some of you to hear but this is the only way to completely remove all risk in this scenario. With all of the options, setting them up and getting your dog used to these changes ahead of time is what will make the adjustment for all much easier once the baby arrives. It will also give you a chance to make sure it all works or fits in your room, dog is adjusting well and everything is safe before the baby is actually sleeping in your room. Due to the SID Safe recommendations by Rednose Australia unfortunately I cannot recommend that baby sleeps alone in the nursery whilst dog stays in your room with you.
Getting your dog used to being separated from you
Whether your dog sleeps in your room or not, getting your dog used to separation is super important if you have a baby on the way as it will give you a break from supervising 24/7 during the daytime too. This is something I highly recommend to all my clients preparing their dog for life with baby. I know it might sound easier said than done as dogs can get very conflicted. They want to be close to their trusted adults but they also need a break from the chaos of the baby/kids. So, it is important to implement management tools slowly and in a positive way. Using a Kong, snuffle mat, a chew toy or a Licki-mat is a lovely way to make this separation a positive. Make sure to start slowly and gradually with it. Build up the amount of time your dog is separated and the distance you move away. If your dog is not ok with this during the day, the transition overnight will be harder. So start practising. Reach out if you need help with this.
The importance of getting a good night Sleep
Just like us, a good night sleep is essential for our dogs wellbeing! Puppies need 18-20 hours sleep a day. Dogs need 12-14 hours sleep a day. An overtired dog can become a cranky dog. This is another great reason why giving your dog its own place to be able to get a full night sleep is so important. You are going to be sleep deprived and that is not fun, so let’s try not to put our dogs through it too.
If you are getting a puppy and want to become parents in the near future
It is so common for newly married couples to get that puppy first before having kids. That’s what Jase and I did! Cooper was our first baby. And from the get go, he slept in his own little safe place, in our living room. So, if this is you, set your pup up for success and don’t have them sleeping in your room from the get go if you know you want to have kids soon. It will just make life so much easier for you and your dog when the time comes.
Again, I know this is a sensitive topic for many as sleeping with your dog is one of life’s joys for some!! I know, because I now have my dog sleeping in my room. BUT – I didn’t until after I had finished having my babies. Cooper always slept separately to us, from puppyhood all the way through to when I stop feeding Brooklyn overnight in our bedroom. As soon as Brooks was out of our room, Cooper was let in!! He was 7 years of age when this happened. And I get it, it’s beautiful, dogs are social beings and they like to be with us BUT safety must come first!!
If you have a baby on the way and you would like to have a chat about this, please make sure to reach out to myself or any of the other Family Paws Educators around the world.
Disclaimer: Cooper and Kids will not be liable for anything that happens to you, your dog or children by following the advice and tips in this article. If you have real concerns or worries about your dog and/or safety of your children, please seek out a professional to come and assess the situation asap.