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Fri, May 24

Powers: Dogs and babies
All About Pets

Jessica Ruttle and Adrian walk at the square with Miya accompanied by best friends, Lindsey Saiz and Harper. (Courtesy)

Jessica Ruttle and Adrian walk at the square with Miya accompanied by best friends, Lindsey Saiz and Harper. (Courtesy)

Arriving at the Courthouse Square recently to walk with my ever eager pups, I quickly noticed two young women pushing their babies in strollers and accompanied by a very sweet looking Pitbull/yellow lab mix, Miya.

After writing last week about the over abundance of dog bites reported and the huge insurance claims that are paid out each year, I loved seeing these little guys, about ten months old, reaching out their hands to touch and pet this dog.

Talk about a gentle soul, Miya takes the prize. I was wondering how she, who is 12 years old, adjusted to having a baby in the house so I asked a lot of questions of mom. Jessica Ruttle. Miya was an only dog for a couple of years and went everywhere with Jessica. After losing their other dog, they thought about getting another dog but then realized that a baby was on the way.

Preparing Miya for a new family member, a very tiny, vulnerable one, took some planning and training, but it worked beautifully. Miya was pretty well trained - Jessica took dog training very seriously, but also made it a pleasurable experience for Miya. Miya had her own space in the house with her comfortable bed.

When baby Adrian arrived, Miya was allowed to be near the baby and very soon realized that this was a new member of the family. As the baby began crawling around, he also was given his space. Neither of them ventured into the other’s private space. But in the common areas, they interacted and learned to trust and care about each other. And also, Adrian was taught not to crawl around or onto Miya while she was sleeping.

One of the most helpful things, according to Jessica, was the constant walking - Adrian in his stroller and Miya walking along side. This togetherness created a kind of pack mentality like Miya had with her dog siblings, and she realized that now this little human was part of this family pack, relates Jessica.

Jessica’s best friend, Lindsey Saiz, has baby Harper, and the two children are very close in age. Miya has accepted Harper into her fold. Both children are being taught how to interact with a dog, how and where to pet them and to be respectful of their space.

Jessica believes that 90% of dog bites happen by accident. She stresses that children should always be supervised around any animal.

Proper training is so vitally important. All pups should attend a dog training class - not just to learn basic behaviors, but also, to be involved with other people and dogs. Socialization is vital. It is also important for a dog to have his own space in the house. If there is a lot of noise, lots of people around or if the dog simply needs a time out, he can go to that space, feel safe and know that he will not be disturbed. This can be a comfortable dog bed in the corner or a cozy crate where the door is open so he can come and go.

Exercise is also very important, whether the dog enjoys chasing a ball, doing some fun tricks or just taking some good walks. Just like children, our dogs need the opportunity to expel some of their energy.

A few years ago, some Pitbull dogs were rescued from Michale Vick’s dog fighting business. They were bred to fight. But after their rescue, many of them were trained to be therapy dogs. They learned to trust people and other dogs and they loved their new lives.

Dogs generally try to do what is expected of them. They want to please us. We need to set some basic rules, make the guidelines clear and generously reward good behavior. This leads to happy dogs and happy people!

Christy Powers is a free lance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at cpowerspak@gmail.com.

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