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Introducing Dogs and New Babies

By: Lisa Klassen - Updated: 7 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Pet Dog Baby Babies Baby's New Baby Dogs

Bringing home the newest ‘pack member’ of your family can be a stressful experience for your dog, but with some patience, forethought and training, dogs and babies will get along just fine.

Obedience Training

It’s crucial for dogs that will be around babies to have obedience training in order to respond to the sit/down commands essential for a baby’s safety. If you have never put your dog through any kind of training, start immediately. After all, if he keeps getting in trouble for trying to do something like jump up on the baby and has no idea of how to respond to the down command, it’s not really fair to your pet. It’s an excellent idea to give your pet commands from various different positions, like sitting and lying down, to make sure he responds to you. Some pets only react when you are in an upright position, something you may not always be with a baby at your side.

Before the Baby Arrives

It’s best to make the changes in your home slowly and far in advance of the birth. This is to prevent your dog from negatively associating changes with the baby’s homecoming, dogs like routine and will respond better to gradual adjustment.

Getting your dog used to the baby’s bedroom being off limits and furniture like baby swings beforehand will ease the stress of transition on him when the time comes.

See how your dog behaves around the baby by using a doll as a test subject for a few weeks before your baby is due. This prevents you reacting nervously or fearfully as you may around your actual child. Put the doll in a carrier or sling and walk around the house to get your dog used to the new shape of your body, preventing him jumping up to investigate.

If you plan to walk your dog with your baby in the stroller, do trial runs with the doll to get your dog used to the new walking routine. This also helps you get a feel for walking a dog and a stroller at the same time, something that can be difficult for the uninitiated. You may need to change your routine a little and it’s best to know this beforehand. As hard as it may sound, you also need to start reducing the amount of time you spend with your pet well before the birth so he doesn’t feel deprived when the baby arrives.

The First Few Days

Don’t introduce your dog during the hectic first few days of the baby’s arrival home. Before entering the house, mom should give the baby to someone else while she is saying hello to the dog. Later, bring out a piece of clothing or something with the baby’s smell on it so your pet can become used to the scent. Once the excitement of baby visits has died down, bring your dog into the room after the mother has sat down with the baby in her lap.

Dogs should never lick or sniff babies, for numerous reasons including germ transmission, so keep dogs in a down position. Quietly soothe and reassure your dog with pets and praise, possibly give a treat or new toy. It’s key for your pet to have positive associations with your baby, a dog shouldn’t feel like the baby has some how taken his position in the family. So give your pet plenty of love and affection while the baby is in the room, don’t save playtime, pets and treats for when it’s just you and the dog.

What to Watch For

Be aware that screaming and arm waving can trigger your dog into an aggressive action as this imitates the actions of wounded prey so during times when the baby cries, it’s best to have your pet out of the room. Don’t make a big fuss about it; simply remove your dog from the room at these times, quietly petting and reassuring him.

Another common problem is urinating in areas of the house like cots, beds, clothing and other baby possessions to cover the scent of the baby’s urine and feces. Do not misinterpret these actions, they are not done out of malice but rather anxiety on the part of your pet, so refrain from scolding your dog as this only increases the problem. Limit access to the areas being marked and try to give your pet more attention when the baby is around, if possible. Also, make sure the baby is always at a height that is above, not below the dog’s eye level. This helps establish pack status in your baby’s favour in the mind of your dog.

With patience and care, a positive dog/baby relationship can be attained.

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