If you’re reading this post, I assume Congratulations! are in order. This is an exciting and sometimes scary time. But don’t worry, when it comes to dogs and babies you generally have nothing to worry about. Although, it never hurts to prepare just in case!
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.
Before the baby arrives you can work on desensitizing your dog/s to the new smells, sounds and sights that come with the baby. The best way to do this is with another baby but some people are hesitant about lending you their newborn to be used as a dog training tool. So we have to do our best to replicate the new stimuli so your dogs can become desensitized to them which will result in a calmer dog when the baby arrives.
Sounds – Some dogs are easily startled and naturally inquisitive when they hear a new sounds. Newborns are generally quiet but they all cry, cough, coo and grunt adorably. While incredibly cute, these sounds can also bring unwanted attention from the dogs. No one wants a curious pup underfoot while they are trying to sooth a crying baby. You can use the TrainAway app to get your dogs used to the sounds that will come with your newborn. Tips: pair with a portable speaker and move the speaker around. React naturally, as you would if the sounds were coming from your baby, place the speaker in the bassinet and when it cries walk over and stand by the bassinet. Your dogs will likely follow at first but soon learn to ignore the sound and your new behaviors.
Smell – If at all possible, have your mom/dad/friend or whoever is taking care of your dogs while you’re in the hospital come by and bring a used swaddle cloth home to the dogs. Ask them to bundle it up, walk in and place the bundle in the bassinet. The dogs should get all their sniffs out around the bassinet before you arrive home.
Sight – This one isn’t as important as sound as smell because with the exception of a few breeds its not as strong of a sense, but it’s easy to combine with the others so your dogs get the whole picture. Swaddles, Bassinets and other baby items should be out and in plain sight a week or two before the baby arrives so that your dogs are used to all the new objects.
Bundling all three – When your dog caretaker brings home the swaddle cloth ask them to Wrap some cloths and a speaker in the used swaddle cloth take the new ‘baby’ and walk around, sit, stand and finally set the ‘baby’ down in the bassinet. This will give your dogs a final trial run before the new arrival. Don’t hold the bundle down for the dogs to sniff as this is not a behavior you want to encourage at this time.
Additional tips – Teaching commands like leave it, gentle and off can be very helpful. Try setting boundaries by laying a baby blanket down in the spot your baby will be doing tummy time and calmly but consistently make sure your dog knows to stay off of it with the ‘off’ command. There are plenty of youtube videos that can show you how to correctly teach these commands.
2. Initial Introduction
Have a plan! This is key and each will be different so here’s an example; When you arrive home have your S/O go in first and take the dog/s out to the bathroom while baby and you wait in the car. Then you greet the dogs while your partner is with the baby. Finally bring the dogs and the baby in together, keep the baby in the car seat so they are protected from an accidental jump up. Plan to go straight to a table or high couch so the dogs can’t reach the baby and stay there for a few minutes until your dog calms down. Once they’re calm you can put the dog/s on leash and secured them to the legs of a heavy piece of furniture or just stand on the leash. Then bring the car seat down to the dog’s level but out of reach by a few feet and let the dogs smell/investigate. Stay calm and don’t talk much, let your dog learn naturally. Continue with these planned interactions gradually letting the dogs closer and eventually having the baby out of the car seat and in your hands. Honestly, there’s likely nothing to worry about but a slow gradual approach can help avoid an unfortunate accident like a dog stepping on a little hand.
3. Life with baby
With strong preparation and a good introduction, you’ll find that adding a new member to the pack is pretty easy. Dogs generally adapt well to change and babies grow so slowly that your dog will naturally be desensitized to movements like rolling, crawling and eventually walking and talking. If your dog barks I would work towards limiting that, as sleep becomes exceedingly precious for both you and your baby. An interrupted nap can be a real pain. You can use the TrainAway app to help with barking associated with different sounds and if the barking is from something else, you may want to research or speak with a trainer on how to prevent other types of barking.
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’.
Finally, be on the lookout for stalking behavior. If your dog stares intently, freezes or approaches in a crouched slow manner you should separate the baby and dog immediately and contact a reputable behaviorist.
Best of luck and while it’s great to be prepared don’t lose any sleep over it!!
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