I expected to have to guard our baby from the dog when we arrived home. I was sure he would smother baby in licks and bark during nap time. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how our dog kept a watchful guard over our new little addition. Our dog peered into the crib, followed me into the kitchen to make bottles and rested at the foot of the glider in the nursery.
So it really shouldn’t be any surprise that our pup was right there watching and learning baby sign language. I think he may have even learned faster than baby in most cases. I recall signing “bath” and finding the dog waiting patiently on the bathroom rug by the time I had gathered up a clean diaper and outfit. And once our son was old enough to toss his finger food from the high chair, it was really no surprise how the dog jumped with excitement when I would sign “Are you hungry?”
Teaching Fido to sign right along with baby can be fun, convenient and rewarding. And in many cases our dogs are learning signs even without our realizing it. But what if your dog isn’t deaf and understands verbal cues well… why teach baby sign language to your dog?
When you bring baby home more than just your world changes. Your pup now has to compete for your attention in a way he has never had to before. Just as older siblings can become a bit jealous with all the attention that a newborn demands, your dog can feel the effect of having to take a backseat to the new addition. Taking a moment to show and teach signs to both baby and dog puts some focus back on your four-legged friend.
Baby sign language is convenient to communicate to dog (and children too) when they are at a distance, or how about when pup is on the other side of a sliding glass door. Sometimes the situation warrants quiet (baby is sleeping) but you want to sign to tell your dog to come, sit, stay, lay down, etc.
But it doesn’t have to be one sided; your dog can sign back too! Ok, so Fido may need to make a few adjustments and learn for instance to raise a left paw versus a right or cover his face or turn his head for signs that may only require you to use a few fingers. Still, we can train dogs to use specific movements to communicate with us similar to how they pick up on our body language. I bet you already use at least a few signs with your dog now if you think about it.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of teaching our dog BSL happened when I watched my pre-verbal baby use his signs to tell our dog to sit and then lay down so he could cover our pups legs with his blankie. Our dog is in many ways our child too, so it is great seeing how the two siblings get along!