Preparing your dog for life with an infant.
Baby’s on the way and it’s an exciting, joyous time. But you may be starting to look at Fido a little differently. He is your loving companion, but how will he cope with this new addition? Those enthusiastic bouncy greetings you receive upon your arrival home may seem more dangerous than endearing when it involves a newborn.
Don’t fret! With some preparation and planning, Fido and baby will adjust well to each other.
Brush up on your basics. It’s time to revisit those puppy class commands again! Practise the ‘sits’, the ‘downs’ and the other basic commands. Keep it fun and provide rewards. Positive reinforcement and practice now will help ensure Fido obeys your commands when baby is in your arms.
Address behaviour issues. Deal with problems like aggression, anxiety, fear, or stress before the baby is born. It’s a good idea to call in a trainer or behaviour expert for an assessment and guidance. Fixing or managing these problems greatly reduces the likelihood that owners will feel the need to re-home Fido.
Provide success stations for your dog. You don’t want Fido underfoot when you are busy caring for the baby. So this is the time to set up success stations: roomy areas where the dog is comfortable and can enjoy an activity, like chewing a treat such as stuffed, frozen Kong. Success stations can include a crate or a gated area of the home.
Familiarize yourself with dog body language. Dogs offer a variety of subtle signs to indicate they are stressed, uncomfortable, or anxious. These include “whale eye”(when the whites of the eyes show), licking their nose, stiffened body, ears back, panting, etc. If the dog shows these signs while interacting with baby (or others), it’s time for a break in the success station.
Carry a baby doll around. Dogs are very attuned to body language, and carrying a baby causes drastic changes in our posture. So practising with a doll in your arms, a sling or a carrier, will help Fido get used to these changes in advance. It will also give you the opportunity to reinforce training. For instance, if the dog jumps up while you are carrying the doll, reiterate “off” and when he obeys, provide a treat.
Set up and use baby equipment. Baby equipment moves, vibrates, and makes strange noises. This can elicit a dog’s curiosity or insecurities. Help him get used to these effects prior to baby’s arrival by setting up equipment and turning it on, or using it. Then reward your dog for leaving the equipment alone.
Make dog’s schedule more flexible. Life with baby will be chaotic for awhile. Your schedule will change, and so must the dog’s. So take the time now to help him adjust. Start by being more flexible about when you feed him and walk him, and give him time alone in his success station with a fun item. Vary the schedule by small amounts in the beginning, then increase the variations over time.
Don’t rush introductions. When you bring baby home, keep Fido separate from baby for as long as you need to, according to your own comfort level. When Fido is first introduced to baby, place him at a distance and reward him with praise for staying put. Include Fido when you are interacting with baby as much as possible as long as he stays calm. Be lavish with praise. Gradually allow the dog to get closer to baby. If you feel comfortable, let the dog sniff baby’s feet. Never yell at the dog in baby’s presence as that will set up a negative association.
Don’t neglect Fido. If you’re feeling overwhelmed after baby arrives, it may be beneficial to hire a dog walker or book a doggy day care so Fido’s needs aren’t neglected.
Provide supervision. Never leave baby and dog together unattended and always provide full awake/aware supervision. Even the most gentle and docile dog can experience stress, pain or illness and should be monitored.