Many new parents are understandably nervous and apprehensive about introducing a new baby to their dog, but with the right preparation such a meeting can be happy and free from problems. The time to begin preparing for the meeting is long before mum and baby come home from the hospital, and it is important to get started as early as possible.
A big part of that preparation, of course, is basic obedience training. A dog that has not been properly socialized will never be safe around an infant, so it is important to go through the socialization and training process long before the baby is born.
During the training process it is particularly important to eliminate any play bites the dog may give. Dogs often play with one another by mouthing and biting, but such behavior will not be acceptable once the new baby comes home. Be careful not to reinforce biting behaviour when playing with the dog, and carefully discipline such behaviors when they do take place.
It is also important for mums to be and their families to slowly reduce the amount of time and attention given to the dog in the weeks and months leading up to the baby’s arrival. When the new baby does come home, nearly all of the family’s attention will be focused on the new arrival, and many dogs can become jealous of the new baby. By slowly reducing the amount of time spent with the dog, family members can reduce any possible jealousy and avoid potential problems. Giving your dog some additional exercise with a dog walker will also work wonders in reducing their anxiety and calmness around the new baby.
One often overlooked part of preparing the dog for the arrival of the new baby is getting the dog used to having people around its food bowl. Many dogs are understandably protective of their food area, and having a toddler wander into that food zone can have unpredictable results. By getting the dog used to having its food bowl handled, removed and returned, parents can reduce and eventually eliminate any territorial behaviour that might otherwise arise.
4) A day or so before you bring baby home from the hospital, take home a blanket the baby has been wrapped in, or a cap and present them to your dog along with some yummy treats. Let him/her smell it thoroughly. This will get the dog familiar with your baby’s scent, therefore, when your dog and baby meet for the first time, your dog will recognize the scent of your baby and should be more receptive. DO NOT let the dog play with it. NOTE: The blanket/scent should be associated with GOOD BEHAVIOR, not thrashing, tugging or dragging around, etc. Each time you present the scent item to the dog have him “sit” and lavish him/her with praise and treats. By doing this frequently, the dog learns to associate the scent with sitting and getting a treat.
BABY COMES HOME
1) When you bring baby home, it is a good idea for a neutral person to carry the baby into the house while you carry out your normal “dog greeting routine.” Keep your greetings brief and calm.
2) After you have greeted the dog it is a good idea to put your dog’s leash on for the first few encounters; that way you will have the physical control needed to prevent any inappropriate behavior. It is important to introduce the dog to the baby. This makes it clear to the dog that the baby is a new member of the “pack”.
Put the baby in your lap and let the dog sniff the baby. Keep a very watchful eye on the dog; it is not okay for the dog to muzzle, nudge or paw at the baby. Pair these exercises with very positive reinforcement. Use a very special food treat that the dog normally doesn’t get. The dog will learn that the presence of the baby brings good things.
If the dog does something inappropriate, calmly and WITHOUT emotion, place the dog in time out and try again later. Remember to positively reinforce your dog for all appropriate behavior!!
The dog may start to bark at the baby. If this occurs, distract the dog and engage it in another reinforceable behavior. If that doesn’t work then immediately put the dog up. He/she will learn that barking cause him to go away, and being quiet causes him to get “cookies” he/she will make the right choice. Be PATIENT and PERSISTENT!
3) When your dog is behaving acceptably toward the baby you will need to positively reinforce him/her. Your reinforcement should occur whenever your dog is being good, i.e., quietly lying down, sitting or engaging in any behavior you deem acceptable. Reinforcement should be something the dog really loves.
NOTE: Enthusiastic, energetic and physical PRAISE may excite your dog, causing it to become “hyper” or break the last command you gave it.
4) When the baby comes home, give the dog a treat or new toy and keep to the dog’s normal routine as much as possible. This will help your dog to associate the baby’s presence with positive things.
1) Do not exclude your dog; if you have a house dog do not throw it outside once baby arrives. Conversely, if you have an outside dog make sure he/she has plenty of exposure to the baby. It is vital your dog and baby have the chance to bond and develop a relationship.
2) Do not ignore your dog during routine interaction with the baby. For example: If you are bathing the baby and your dog follows you or comes in a little later, do not chase him/her away. If you are feeding the baby allow the dog to sit next to you and as you feed (or wash) the baby talk to the dog, let him/her know what a GOOD DOG he/she is. As long as the dog is behaving let him/her be a part of the activity. If the dog misbehaves then make the necessary correction and continue on. Remember to be PATIENT and CONSISTENT.
3) Do not allow your dog to sleep/lay under the crib or cradle. A dog can upset a crib or cradle or knock down the side rails. As a general rule, the baby’s toys and equipment should be off limits to your dog. Give a clear signals and set clear boundaries.
4) DO NOT EVER LEAVE YOUR BABY AND DOG ALONE FOR ANY AMOUNT OF TIME NO MATTER HOW STABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY YOU FEEL YOUR DOG IS!! Your dog is still a dog, an animal. ALWAYS put safety first and monitor EVERY interaction your dog and child have. Your presence will remind the dog that you are in charge and insure a calm interaction between the two.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
1) POSSESSIVENESS – This is the dog claiming the baby as its own and doing what it feels is necessary to protect it. This can also happen if the dog feels threatened or he feels the “Pack” is threatened by the new intruder, the baby. This will need to be corrected IMMEDIATELY. Seek professional help if this occurs.
2) MARKING – This is your dog urinating (marking) on things. The dog could be remarking it’s territory over the new scent of the baby. It is the dogs way of telling the baby (the new “pack” member) that this is his turf. Keep things you don’t want peed on up. And if you catch the dog beginning to mark something, startle him/her by making a loud noise and escorting him/her outside when he/she stops.
3) DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOUR – Could result from a lack of attention, anxiety or jealousy. Do more obedience work and give your pooch some additional exercise with a dog walker.
If you have multiple dogs in the your home, bringing a new baby into the environment can upset the pack dynamic among the dogs. It is important that you maintain the established hierarchy. Keep the existing routine and feeding schedules as much as possible. Greet the “top-dog” first, the middle dog second, etc. Let the top-dog out/in first, etc. This will go a long way to keeping the dynamic stable.