Everyone dreams of having the perfect family. A well-behaved dog is part of that dream. Dogs should be and can be an integral part of the family. They offer love, security, and companionship. They can be a child’s first friend and playmate. How is it then that so many dogs get pushed to the back burner, or worse, completely out of the home when baby comes along? In most cases, the answer is a lack of preparation. Properly preparing your dog for the new addition will help encourage a safe and easy transition for every member of the family.
Before Baby Arrives
Introducing New Sounds, Equipment, and Smells
It’s important that your dog gets comfortable around new noises, movements, and smells. Better yet, they should have a pleasant association with them. You can help accomplish this by playing sounds of babies crying immediately before feeding your dog their meals or tasty treats. Baby swings and bouncers should be set up in the living area. Scatter treats around the equipment while it is in the “off” position. Once your dog is comfortably approaching the new gear you can repeat the same exercise while in the “on” position. You can begin opening (even wearing) new lotions and soaps you plan to use on your new bundle of joy.
Keeping Fido a Member of the Family
A key to having your dog remain a part of the family is a few, but strong obedience commands. This continues to encourage a pleasant association with the baby and all of the activities that go along with caring for the baby. We recommend teaching in a fun, positive way such that your dog enjoys the obedience. We’ve found that the following obedience behaviors are most useful:
- Sit or down
- Stay (i.e., sit or down and don’t move)
- Wait (i.e., don’t cross a threshold)
- Place (i.e., go to a dog bed and stay)
- Heel (i.e., walk next to a stroller without pulling)
It may be equally important to address any problem behavior your dog might do prior to baby coming home. Annoying barking can become very problematic when you have a sleeping tot. Any aggressive behavior should be addressed well before your little one is born. By addressing any problem behavior ahead of time you help to encourage a long- lasting, wonderful relationship.
Once Baby Arrives
Including your dog into the mix of caring for baby is a great way of encouraging a strong relationship between your dog and baby. It’s crucial that they not feel left out with the newest bundle on board. Have a treat jar in the nursery to reward your dog for doing a sit or down stay while you change or feed the baby. Use “heel” so that your dog can accompany you during a walk.
Once Baby is Mobile
It’s extremely important that children not be allowed to hit or bite your dog. It’s equally important that they not stand on, crawl over, or sit on Fido. These experiences can be extremely unpleasant for your dog and could potentially result in your child getting bitten. Teaching children to be gentle with animals is a great lifelong lesson. Also, your toddler should not approach your dog’s food bowl or chew bones while they are eating or chewing. Picking up bowls or edible bones can prevent a potential dog bite.
Things to Avoid
We recommend against the use of any type of electronic pet containment system inside the house. It’s also potentially dangerous to harshly correct your dog in the presence of your baby.