“The best therapist has fur and four legs.” Summer is here, which means it’s time…
Bringing home a new baby is exciting for you and your spouse, but your dog may have mixed emotions. Furthermore, the presence of a newborn baby can confuse and even cause fear in your dog. When introducing babies and dogs you need to sympathize with your dog. That little newborn seems to be human, but it moves, sounds, and smells like an alien your dog has never seen before. Not only is this introduction confusing for your dog, but now this little human is getting all the attention too.
Though eager learners, dogs are capable of exhibiting jealousy. However, if you plan ahead and take the right precautions in the beginning weeks of the introduction, you can actually help establish a bond between your baby and dog.
Introducing Babies and Dogs
Prepare your dog for introduction before you bring your baby home. This will include training in basic obedience so your dog does not overstep his boundaries and injure the baby. Ensure that the basic commands sit, down and stay are well developed. In addition to these essentials, here’s a list of 15 tips for introducing dogs to babies:
1. Adjust Your Dog’s Schedule
In a gradual manner, make adjustments to your dog’s schedule before the baby comes home so that your dog doesn’t correlate the changes with the arrival of the baby. For example, if the walking schedule will likely change when the baby arrives than it’s best to adjust the schedule before the introduction. Breakdown the baby’s schedule before the baby arrives, including feeding, rocking, changing and stroller walking.
2. Reduce Attention
Gradually reduce the amount of attention your dog receives two to three weeks prior to the baby’s arrival. A big no-no is lavishing your dog with love in a “last-minute” fashion, only to result in an abrupt halt.
3. Play a Track of Baby Sounds
Playing a track of baby noises in your house is a clever way of exposing your dog to baby sounds ahead of time. Increase the durations appropriately until the new baby arrives.
4. Let Your Dog Have a Whiff
Bring one of the baby’s blankets or articles of clothing home so your dog can get a feel for the infant’s scent. In addition, acclimate your dog to new baby smells such as powder and lotion.
5. Teach the “Go to Place” Command
Teach the “go to place” command to your dog before the baby arrives. You can use any bed, mat, or set area to train this behavior. Additionally, the behavior can be transferred to other locations efficiently. Stand next to the mat you want your dog to go to and point to the area. Praise your dog as soon as he’s in place and reward him with treats. Release your dog from the position with a command like “okay!” and throw a treat to get him off the mat. When the “go to place” command is well-developed, add a down or sit. In sequence, use the term “place” to mean go where I’m pointing and down or sit to keep your dog in position. In a gradual manner, increase the duration that your dog stays in position and put rewards in his place, such as chew toys.
6. Get Excitement Out of the Way First
Your dog likely gets excited when he hears you coming through the door, so greet your dog before bringing the baby inside. If your dog is a jumper, you’ll want the jumping out of his system before the baby comes in.
7. Acclimate On Leash
Before introducing your baby and dog in close proximity, let your dog acclimate to the sight, sound, and smell of the new baby for a few days first. After a few days of acclimation, let your dog sniff your baby while on a leash. While doing so, praise him while he sniffs. Most babies and dogs get along just fine. Dogs tend to adapt easily, but precautions should always be taken. Also, give your dog space to approach the baby and don’t force the introduction.
8. Acclimate Off Leash
When your dog is accustomed to the baby’s smell, let him sniff the baby while off leash. Dogs react differently when babies spontaneously cry, kick or scream. When you’re interacting with your baby and dog, keep the baby elevated and stay between them at all times. Those spontaneous noises can startle dogs.
9. Give Your Dog Adequate Attention
Give your dog adequate attention with the baby around. You do not want your dog correlating good things happening only when the baby is not around.
10. Don’t Scold Your Dog for Chewing Baby Toys
Don’t scold your dog for getting into the baby’s toys. You want to avoid the baby’s scent being associated with negative tones.
11. Monitor Any Changes in Behavior
Your dog may have trouble adapting as quickly as your baby is changing. Take note of any changes in your dog’s behavior as your baby grows.
12. Protect Your Dog from Little Hands
Protect your dog’s ears and tail as your baby begins to crawl. Though small, those little hands can deliver quite the jolt of pain by pulling hair. Growling and snapping are natural behaviors of dogs when communicating a warning. Even the most well-developed and obedient dogs have pain thresholds.
13. Don’t Leave Baby Alone
Don’t leave even the most trusted of dogs in a room alone with a baby!
14. Create a Special Place for Your Dog
Create a safe haven for your dog. A special place in the house where only your dog has access. Furthermore, keep children away from invading your dog’s special place. This can be a bed, crate, gated room, etc.
15. Leverage Gates Appropriately
It is okay to keep your baby’s room gated off from the rest of the house, especially if your dog attempts to jump on the crib.