By Mandy Makein
Now comes the most challenging part of having a dog, or dogs, and a baby. This is when all of the training you have done to date comes into play and will make your life much easier and more enjoyable for all. The following article will teach you how to get your dog used to your newborn baby.
Coming Home For the First Time
The first step in this process is your arrival home from the hospital. If you do this the right way your dog will be more likely to accept your new baby.
When you come home from the hospital, have mom enter first, alone with something of baby’s, such as a blanket or clothes the baby has worn. This allows your dog to smell the new quot;thing” that will be coming into the house, making it less alien to him. Have dad hold baby outside so that your dog can greet her and start to calm down before the baby comes in the house. Then, have mom go outside and hold the baby while dad goes in to greet the dog. It is OK for your dog to get a little excited, but make sure you get him calm before the baby comes in to the house. If mom and dad are calm and relaxed when they enter it will transfer to the dog and put him at ease a little faster. Do not make a big deal out of the greeting, but make it a happy one! Put the dog on leash and make him sit and stay so you have control when mom and baby enter. When your dog has calmed, come in the house with the baby. Do not let the dog jump on anyone, especially baby! If he does, give him a firm correction verbally and with a quick jerk on the leash. Do not use any harsh punishments unless the dog becomes a threat to the baby. Do not hit your dog! If you believe that the situation is too much for the dog to handle, put him in his crate or gate him in a room. When the dog is calm, allow him to sniff baby’s feet. Be very careful not to let the dog too close to the baby’s face at first because he could accidentally hurt the baby if he jumps or licks too hard. Basically, keep control of him at all times and the likelihood of something bad happening will be minimal. Do make sure that you praise your dog for good behavior. You can also give him high value treats for
the good behavior.
Even by following the above procedures your dog may still be “jealous”, even though dogs really don’t have that emotion. They do understand when the attention has diminished or completely gone away. Make sure to still give your dog attention when possible! Make special time for him just as you did before the baby came home. Set up time to play with and give attention to him when the baby is around and is not around. This shows your dog that he is still a part of the family and will still get attention. It also teaches him to share the
attention with the baby. This may seem like a tough task to achieve because you will not have much energy due to the demands a baby places on you, but it is vital!
How Your Dog Should Act Around the Baby
Have your dog sit or lay down when he is near the baby. This will assist in the process of teaching the dog “gentle” and promote calm behavior around the baby. Keeping the leash on in the house will allow you to have the extra control over your dog that you may need. Make sure to only have the leash on the dog when you are home and able to supervise, otherwise the dog could get injured from the leash. You can also use the leash to teach your dog to walk slowly around the baby. Make sure to praise when he is doing what you want.
It is very important for your dog to respect your baby. When your baby is young you need to be the one to make your dog have respect for your baby. Making the dog be gentle and do down-stays around the baby helps to teach the dog to respect the infant. As your child grows you can have your child interact and do different activities with your dog to teach your dog that the child is higher in the pack than he is.
When to Pay Attention to Your Dog
Good times to give your dog attention when you have your baby out are when the baby is in his or her swing, on a blanket, or while you are feeding baby (if you can juggle both tasks at once!). You can give your dog treats during every aspect of dealing with the baby, such as while you are feeding, while you are changing, holding or playing with your baby. Again, this will teach your dog to accept all of the different things that you will be doing with your baby.
Do not push the dog away if he shows attention to the new baby. Make sure to keep all baby experiences positive, when possible, using praise and the high value treats. Encourage the calm, gentle behavior around your baby so that he understands the right way to be with the baby. If you ignore your dog when the baby is out it can cause feelings of neglect in your dog. This can lead to bad attention seeking behaviors such as stealing things that aren’t his, jumping, nipping or barking. Realize that both your dog and baby will still need individual attention.
A good way to pay attention to your dog is by taking him out for a walk or play. It is very important for your dog to get plenty of exercise daily. If your dog does not receive this necessity, he will become out of control and a pain in the you-know-what!
Help! My Dog Steals From My Baby and Knocks Over Her Highchair!
One thing that drives me crazy is a dog that steals from the baby or knocks into baby equipment. Teaching your dog to keep a slight distance away from the equipment will avoid accidents. Please do not let your dog jump on or paw at the equipment. This is especially important because the dog can knock over swings, strollers and high chairs inadvertently. Do not allow your dog to climb into the baby equipment or lay on the baby blankets or clothes. Your dog will leave hair and dirt in and on them and could damage the equipment. It also sets up the
possibility of your dog attempting to do this when your baby is in it! Your dog could hurt or suffocate your baby if he lies on, or steps on your baby.
Please keep your dog away from the high chair! Do not let her clean the food up off the chair or the ground. This will eventually lead to a dog that jumps on the chair and steals food. Whether or not your baby is in the chair, this is not a good behavior to allow!
Nursing and Bottle Feeding
Nursing or bottle feeding is a special time for you and your baby. It is also a time when your dog may become a pest while trying to get your attention. This is a good time to use the “high value treats” to reward the dog for good behavior and to teach the dog that this is a pleasant time, not a time when the dog should feel slighted for a lack of attention.
You can also utilize the down-stay on the dog’s “spot” or at your feet while feeding so that the dog is under complete control, yet still near you and the baby.
Your Bedroom Is a Calm Place
If you plan to have your baby sleep in your bedroom, as many people do, and your dog is allowed in there, your dog needs to learn the proper behavior of being calm and easy in there. Keep the dog away from the bassinet and off of your bed. Many people have the baby in bed with them for sleeping or feeding and you don’t want your dog to step on or lay on the baby, as this could cause injury. You can teach your dog to come on your bed only when invited, if you choose. Make sure that your dog is always lying down when on your bed so you avoid any possible
negative situations. On the same note, teach your dog to get off of your bed when told to do so. It is feasible to have your dog and your baby on your bed at the same time if you are careful and pay attention at all times!
Car Rides With the Baby
It is important to teach your dog how to ride in the car with you and your baby. Your dog probably already knows how to take a car ride, but it becomes a different experience with a baby in the car. Do not allow him to sit in the same seat as your baby because you do not have control over the dog while you are driving. Unwanted things can happen, such as stepping on the baby, nipping the baby, or licking the baby when the dog is too close. Babies also make sudden movements and noises and these may startle your dog. If you have the space in the back of your vehicle, it is a good idea to put the dog there. If you can get the dog used to this before your baby arrives it will be much easier for him to handle having the baby in the car, making it less likely for him to feel neglected. If you do not have room in the back, invest in a dog seatbelt or dog seat (for smaller dogs) and have your dog sit in the front seat when possible. Being able to take your baby and your dog out together can be very enjoyable for all involved!
What to Do If Your Dog Is Not Ready to Be With Your Baby
If your dog growls when it is around the baby, he is not ready to be with the baby. Do not punish your dog for growling! When your dog growls, he is trying to tell you that he is not comfortable with the situation. This is a warning that should be heeded as biting may come next! He is giving you a very important message! If you punish him for growling he will learn that growling is unacceptable and you will no longer have a warning of what may happen if he is not given the opportunity to go away from the baby. This can turn an avoidable incident to a potentially dangerous situation, such as biting.
Taking the extra effort to teach your dog to be around your baby will ensure that he grows to accept the baby and learns that your baby is a part of the family, just as your dog is. He will soon believe that the baby is one of his favorite humans! Your child and your baby will most likely grow to be very close as time goes on!