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Preparing Your Dog For Your New Baby   Leave a comment

Many people having children worry about how their dog will behave around their new baby. This is a fair concern – you don’t want any harm coming to your child! However, with some preparation, you can ensure that your dog will happily welcome your upcoming family member into the fold.

Before the Baby Arrives

The best way to help your dog acclimate to the newest member of the family is to do a lot of preparation before the baby comes. By getting your dog used to the changes in his life that are to come separate from the baby being there, he will not blame the baby for any changes he doesn’t like. Below are some steps you can take while you are still pregnant:

  • Play sounds of a baby crying, screaming, laughing, etc. so dog gets used sounds that will soon be a common part of life. While the sounds are playing give your dog a stuffed chew, a favorite bone, play with him, to make the sound a positive thing.
  • Be sure your dog has good knowledge of basic obedience cues such as sit, down, stay, and come. This will not only give you necessary control over your dog so she can safely be around your baby, it teaches her self-control so she can have the necessary control over herself!  Consider taking a group class with your dog, so she gets used to listening to you in a hectic environment.
  • Use a baby doll to play-act a lot of what will be going on in your household soon. This will make the shock of the baby coming home less, since your dog will be used to the new routine. Some things you can practice:
    • Walk around with the doll in your arms
    • Sit on the couch with the doll on your arms or in your lap
    • Change the doll’s diaper
    • Burp the doll
    • Sit in a rocking chair with the doll
  • You can also use a baby doll to set up new rules for your dog. For example, if your dog will be allowed on the couch in general, but not when the baby is on the couch with you, set up and teach your dog that rule with the doll before the baby comes. You’ll have the time and patience at this point to teach the new rules. Be sure to constantly reinforce them, so they are second nature by the time you substitute the baby for the doll.
  • Get your dog (and you!) used to having his nails clipped regularly, as you will probably want them short around your child.
  • Decide where your dog will sleep after the baby arrives. If it is different than where she is sleeping now, then make the transition before the baby comes.

  • Be sure to run any new equipment you will use after the baby comes early, so your dog gets a chance to investigate it while it’s appropriate. Allow him to investigate it, but not mouth or jump on it. Some things to run include an electric swing, a mobile, and a bouncy chair.
  • If your dog is currently the center of your world, spend some time not paying attention to your dog each day. Once the baby comes she won’t get your undivided attention, so get her used to it now.
  • If your dog is always or sometimes not going to be allowed in the baby’s room, get him used to that fact now. Spend some time in there with the door shut and him outside while you assemble furniture, put away clothes, or do other chores you need to to get ready. In this way he will become acclimated to action occurring in the baby’s room while he’s not allowed in.
  • Teach your dog good leash manners now. Consider using a head collar if your dog pulls. Once your dog has good loose-leash manners, take practice walks with your stroller.

The basic rule for preparing your dog for your baby is to think of every change that will occur in your dog’s life after the baby is home, and slowly acclimate her to it before the baby arrives. If you do this, the baby’s arrival will be less of a shock, since there will not be as many changes when the baby comes home, and your dog will not associate any changes she doesn’t like with the baby.

Introducing Your Baby to Your Dog

  • After the new baby is born, have the new dad take home an item that smells like your baby, such as a blanket he was wrapped in, and allow the dog to smell it. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell, so this will make the baby seem more familiar when she arrives. Allow the dog to smell the blanket, but not mouth it or play with it.
  • When the family comes home from the hospital, have the new mom come into the house first and alone. Your dog won’t have seen her for several days, and so will be quite excited at her return! Let him get that excitement out on mom without baby there to worry about.
  • When you are ready to introduce your dog to your baby, put your dog on a leash. Have everyone stay very calm, if you are worried it will make your dog worried. Bring in the baby and allow the dog to sniff and even lick him (don’t worry, your baby will be exposed to many more germs from visitors over the next few weeks than from your dog’s tongue). The dog should have know appropriate manners for someone holding a baby from your practice sessions with a doll, but if she exhibits any unacceptable behavior the person with the leash should simply take her a few steps away to calm down, and then bring her back to continue the greeting. Do not under any circumstances yell at or punish the dog during this first meeting. Your dog is making her first impression of the new baby, and you don’t want her to associate punishment with your child.
  • After your dog has had a chance to greet the new baby, have a new toy or chew ready for him. This will help make your baby more positive to your dog, and keep him occupied while you settle in at home.

After You are Settled

  • Be sure your dog still gets lots of exercise every day. The number one way to reduce or solve problem behaviors is to exercise your dog! It is almost impossible to walk a dog too much; ideally your dog should be starting to slow down by the time you get home.
  • Make a conscious effort to give your dog attention while your baby is in the room, so he does not learn that the baby’s presence always means he is ignored. If he draws this conclusion he will surely be resentful!

Dogs can be a wonderful part of any child’s life, and with some simple preparation you can ensure that your dog will spend a long, happy life helping your child grow up!

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