By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Mar 12, 2017
When you bring a new baby home, it affects every member of the household. We often commiserate with new parents whose sleep schedule may become disrupted, or siblings who may be vying for attention. But don’t forget about the family dog! When baby arrives, Fido’s world changes as well. Here are our tips on how to ensure your dog and baby have a harmonious relationship.
It’s best to start preparing your pup before baby arrives. Work on strengthening the bond you have with your dog through training. Does your pet respond well when you give voice commands? Does she walk well on a leash? Are you able to keep him from jumping on guests or grabbing unattended food? If the answer to any of these questions is no, both you and Fido may benefit from attending an obedience class together, as proper behavior in all of these situations will be even more important once the baby comes home.
You’ll also want to start making adjustments to your pet’s schedule. If you foresee any changes to your dog’s routine, such as when you will take her out or when you will feed her, start implementing those changes a couple of months before baby is due to arrive.
You can also start introducing your dog to things associated with baby. Teach your dog to lay quietly next to baby’s crib, and reward this behavior. Gently poke him, and give treats after doing so. Mimic other behaviors baby might engage in, such as pulling on the pup’s ears and tail and crawling around on the floor. Always reward good behavior with special treats. If you don’t have other kids already, start walking your dog near playgrounds so he can become accustomed to the sights and sounds of active children.
It’s crucial that the first meeting of dog and baby goes well, so take your time and don’t rush things. Put Fido on a leash for the first introduction so that you have good control over his actions if your dog snips at your baby. Talk in a calm but happy voice, and ensure your body language indicates that this is a fun and enjoyable event. If you are nervous, they may pick up on this and you might be left with an uncomfortable dog.
As your dog approaches and sniffs calmly at baby, reward her with praise and treats. Don’t reprimand her, as you want her to associate baby with only good things. Employ those obedience skills you learned before baby was born, and have her sit quietly near baby for a few minutes. Give more praise and treats. As the days go on, continue this same routine until both you and your pup are comfortable with any interactions with baby.
Before you know it, your new baby will be a toddler, and with that comes a whole new set of challenges! As you teach your child how to appropriately treat a dog, you also need to teach your dog how to best interact with children.
Continue with the poking, tugging, and pulling exercises already discussed so that he is used to toddler hands that may grab at him. Give him a safe zone, such as a crate, where he can go if he needs to get away from baby (of course, make sure baby can’t follow him!). Consider pulling furniture away from walls so that he always has an escape route and can’t be trapped in a corner.
At the same time, teach your child how to nicely pet the pup, and discourage hitting, grabbing, or pulling. Help your child learn how to play games Fido loves, such as fetch or hide-and-seek. Involve your child in training sessions with your dog and let your youngster give rewards for good behavior.
Facilitating a lifelong friendship between baby and dog begins before baby is even born, and the work continues as baby grows. However, with training and some effort on your part, your pup and baby can become inseparable.
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