For many couples, their dog is their baby – at least until an actual baby arrives. Bringing home a new addition to your family is exciting, but it can also be a little scary, especially when you worry how your dog and baby will get along. A few simple steps can help you Safely Introduce your Dog and New Baby.
The good news is there are steps you can take starting long before the big day to help get your dog desensitized to your new baby, as well as ways to properly introduce your dog and baby, and then help them grow to be the best of friends.
Dogs and Babies – Three Phases to Prepare for.
1. Pre-arrival – Here you can desensitize your dogs senses to the new stimuli that a baby brings with it.
2. The introduction – Have a plan and stick to it. Introduce your dogs slowly and methodically for the first few days to avoid any accidents.
3. Life after baby – When you do 1 & 2 correctly, number 3 is pretty easy but it’s good to understand how the baby will change your routines and how that may affect your dog. You can even adjust your routines now before the baby comes if you know you’ll be changing walk times, feeding times etc.
1. Before Baby Arrives
You have approximately nine months to get your house – and dog – in order. One of the biggest things you need to do is teach your dog that you are the unwavering alpha, the pack leader, and he needs to respect that and follow your commands.
If your dog already has negative habits, they may amplify when the baby arrives home. Now is the time to fix them. For example, if your dog is a barker, work on improving that. After baby arrives, sleep will become a rare and valuable commodity. You don’t want your dog barking to interrupt precious sleep. You can use the TrainAway app to help desensitize your dog to specific sounds that cause barking.
Work on training your dog with commands like “leave it,” “gentle,” and “off” – which will come in handy with a baby around!
It’s probably best train your dog to stay out of nursery, at least without your permission. Before bringing baby home, teach your dog that she may not enter unless you tell her she can. When she comes in, allow her to sniff a few things in there, but only with your permission. Then teach her she needs to leave when you say so.
It may be best to hire a professional trainer to help you establish your authority and nip any negative habits in the bud quickly.
Another important step is to help get your dog accustomed to the sights, smells, and sounds that will come with a new baby. Let’s look at how:
- Sounds: To your dog, babies make all kinds of “weird” sounds that are new, unusual, and sometimes scary or even threatening. Babies coo, cough, grunt, and of course, cry. (Sometimes quite loudly!) These sounds naturally make your dog curious, but when you’re trying to sooth a crying baby, the last thing you want is a dog trying to get right in the middle of the action.
This is where the TrainAway app can help. Playing sounds of a baby cooing, laughing, and crying over a speaker that you can move to different areas of the house before baby arrives will help your dog become familiar with and desensitized to baby sounds. When you hear the sounds, respond like you would to a baby. You can even place the speaker in the baby’s crib and walk over to it when you hear the “baby” cry. It takes a little time, but your dog will soon start ignoring the sounds.
- Sight – Start putting out baby items in plain sight at least a week or two before your baby arrives. When using the TrainAway app, you might even swaddle the speaker and carry it around.
- Smells: Before your baby comes home from the hospital, have whoever is taking care of your dog bring by a used swaddle cloth that has your new baby’s scent on it. They should bundle it up and place it in the crib, or ideally, swaddle the speaker. This will help your dog get used to your baby’s smell before you arrive home, and help reduce curiosity a bit.
Ideally, the “alpha” of your family will be able to bring the cloth home before baby gets there. If this is possible, the alpha should hold the cloth and allow your dog to sniff it, but only from a distance. This is letting your dog know that the smell belongs to you and your dog must obey your rules when the smell is nearby.
2. Bring Baby Home
There are a couple of good options for first introducing your dog to your baby. The first is to have someone take your for a long dog for a walk when you arrive home so that it helps wear your dog out and lets you get settled in with baby.
The other option is to have one person stay in the car with the baby while the others goes inside and takes your dog out to potty. Next, switch off. The person who went inside to see the dog first should now come back and stay with baby in the car, while the other person goes in to greet your dog. Next, put the leash on your dog and keep him under control. Now you can bring baby inside safely. Keep your baby in the car seat and have a predetermined place to set the car seat down. This needs to be a high location, like a table that your dog cannot jump up on.
Either way you go about this, you need to give your dog a few minutes to settle down. With one person holding the leash, the other person should bring the baby or the car seat to where the dog can smell and see, but only from a distance. Over time, allow your dog to get closer and closer to the baby.
Remember to stay calm and quiet. Your dog can sense your emotions and will mirror them.
3. Adjusting to Life after Baby
If you take the time and effort to prepare, the transition will usually go smoothly. Dogs are adaptable by nature. Once a dog gets used to the initial change of having a baby around, it will easily adapt to changes as your baby grows and begins crawling, babbling, standing, and so on.
That being said, you need to teach your baby to respect your dog as well. As soon as your baby becomes mobile, you need to start training him how to properly treat the dog. No crawling on the dog, pulling ears or tail, and so on. Dogs reacting negatively to babies or children often results from parents who didn’t train their children to respect their dogs, and this lesson should be taught as early as possible.
Remember that your dog is family too, and including him in activities with your whole family, including baby, will help your dog see your baby as a positive and precious member of the pack. You don’t want your dog to only associate the baby with corrections like “no” or “off!”
While dogs generally adapt to babies quickly, that doesn’t mean you should ever let your guard down while your dog is getting used to baby. If you see your dog staring intently, freezing, or approaching the baby in a crouched manner, immediately separate your dog from your baby. Remember, the safety of your child is your top priority. At this point, you should contact a trained dog behavior specialist.
Be sure to include the dog in activities with the baby so that they gain a positive association with them such as family walks. You don’t want your dog’s only associations with the baby to be corrections like ‘no’ or ‘off’.
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