Get your dog ready BEFORE you bring a baby home!
1) It is important that your dog has a predictable routine for feeding and exercise. Exercise and predictability reduce anxiety and decrease your dog’s demand for attention.
2) Avoid rough play with the dog in the house. Play with your dog in the backyard or park to prevent her from trying to rough play when you have the baby in your arms.
3) Teach your dog that “nothing in life is free” by having her sit or do a trick before she gets attention or food. She will learn that you control all the good things in life and your leadership will improve. If she does not obey the command, turn around and ignore her. She just lost out on her chance to get attention from you.
4) Practice ignoring the dog when you are pregnant. When the baby comes, you don’t want the dog to associate her lack of attention with the baby’s arrival. If your dog knows that “nothing in life is free” then she won’t be an attention hound. Teach your dog to work for your attention when YOU want to give it to her, not vice versa. Remember, you want a well-mannered dog, so work for it before the baby arrives!
What about dogs on furniture?
1) If you don’t want your baby to have to compete with your dog for space on the bed, before the baby arrives you need to teach your dog an “off” command. Teach your dog that she is not allowed on the furniture unless you invite her “up.” Be consistent and have everyone else follow the same rules. Remember to give lots of treats and praise when she gets it right.
1) Before your baby comes home, teach your dog the difference between her toys and the baby’s toys. Try buying latex toys for the dog if you want to give the baby stuffed animals. Start off by tossing an unappealing baby toy and a really exciting dog toy on to the floor. Ask your dog, “Which one is yours?” If she picks up the baby’s toy, tell her to “drop it.” When she picks up her won toy, praise her and give her lots of attention. As your dog begins to understand the game, add in more toys.
2) Scent-marking the baby’s toys by dabbing a bit of Listerine on the baby’s toys will help your dog to separate the baby toys from the dog toys through scent. Play the “which one is yours” game with your dog after scenting the toys. She should pick this up easily.
3) Now whenever your child gets a new toy, you can mark it with a tiny bit of Listerine!
4) If she still doesn’t get it, you can booby trap the toys by tying a soda can filled with coins to the toy. When your dog tries to take a toy, the soda can will make a loud noise as it falls off a table. This should deter her from taking the toy again.
Expose your dog to well-behaved children while you are expecting.
1) Supervise all interactions with children. When your dog first meets the children, keep her on a leash. Stay calm, or your dog may associate your nervousness with children and become nervous around them as well. When you first go to your friend’s house, have the children ignore the dog. When she is calm, have your dog walk up to them and sit before they give her a treat. Use LOTS of praise for good behavior around children.
2) What if she gets excited or nervous around other kids? Do NOT comfort your dog if she is scared. This may teach her that her fearfulness is an appropriate behavior around children. Simply stay calm and increase your distance from the children until she is relaxed. Next, work on obedience near children. If she still isn’t relaxed, try seeking professional help from a behaviorist.
How to prepare the dog for the rough handling children do:
1) Before the baby comes, try petting the dog erratically, being clumsy around her, grabbing her skin gently while petting her, hugging her, and playing a tape of a baby crying while the dog is eating and relaxed.
2) Have a crate in the house where the dog feels safe and can escape if the children are overwhelming her. Crates keep you and your children safe. You do not want your child or his friend’s tormenting the dog whenever they please. Dogs can occasionally grow tired of being so tolerant that they become nippy. Even the most perfect dog can only handle so much. You will probably need a break from the dog yourself from time to time with all the new demands that a baby brings. The crate will be helpful at these times.
Bringing Home the Newborn Baby:
1) Have a parent or friend bring home a blanket with the baby’s scent before bringing the baby home. Give praise and treats to associate the baby’s smell with good things.
2) Be prepared for your arrival. Have your spouse or a friend take your dog out for exercise first. Practice obedience for 10 – 15 minutes. Have one parent keep the dog on a short leash while the other parent walks in the door with the baby, ignoring the dog. Reward good behavior when she is calm and relaxed and following your direction. Keep her on leash (you can make it longer by putting two together) inside the house in case you need to control her.
3) It is important to pay attention to the dog more when the baby is around and less when the baby is not around. You don’t want you dog to associate the baby’s presence with getting ignored, or the baby’s absence with getting attention.
What if the dog growls at baby?
1) SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IMMEDIATELY! You don’t want to take any chances. Growling can be a precursor to more sever aggression. Keep your dog away for the baby until you can consult a professional.
Work hard to prepare your dog before you have the baby and you’ll have a great friend with whom your child can grow!