The introduction of anything new to a dog's environment can cause confusion and stress for the animal. A baby--who makes strange noises, smells funny and takes attention away from the dog--is a major change. Dogs that are energetic and playful by nature make wonderful pets, but are potentially dangerous when a baby or young child is introduced to the home. However, with planning and practice, your energetic dog can be prepared for the change and its happy, child-loving nature can shine. According to professional trainers, the preparation must begin before the baby is even born.
Items You'll Need:
• Baby doll
• Recording of a baby crying
Tip #1 - Do obedience cues with your dog. Practice the stay command with your dog lying down. Reward the dog for holding the stay by giving it attention and treats. Progress from a short stay with you nearby to a longer stay from a distance.
Tip #2 - Review leadership exercises. Allow your dog to eat its dinner only when you signal that it is okay to do so. Require the dog to enter a room after you, not in front of you. Never give the dog any attention when it's jumping on you.
Tip #3 - Determine the amount of one-on-one time you will be able to spend with your dog once the baby is there. Be realistic in your estimation. Remember that you must give your dog at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise each day. Interact with your dog according to the time estimation you previously determined. If you have 45 minutes to devote to your dog each day, begin spending that much time, and no more, playing and exercising with your dog. Ideally, your pet will be used to the decrease in attention when the baby comes home and may even be surprised with a slight increase.
Tip #4 - Visit friends and family with new babies. When you get home, let the dog smell the baby on your clothes. If you can, bring one of the baby's blankets home with you and let your dog investigate it. Pet the dog at the same time so it will make a positive association with the scents.
Tip #1 - Play a recording of a baby crying while your dog enjoys its meal or plays with a toy. Getting the dog used to the sound will avoid confusion and fear.
Tip #2 - Carry a doll around the house, pretending to do some of the things you will do with the new baby. Require your dog to maintain a ten-foot down-stay from you when you are "feeding the baby". Have your dog remain outside of the nursery while you dress the doll or change its diaper.
Tip #3 - Push a stroller with the doll in it while walking your dog. The change in routine may disrupt the dog's behavior at first. Continue to practice with the stroller until the dog will walk calmly beside you.
Tip #4 - Invite new parents and their babies to visit your home. This will not only introduce the dog to a live baby, but allow you to practice commands in a real situation.
Step #1 - Bring an article of the baby's home from the hospital before mom and baby come home. Let your dog become familiar with the child's specific scent. Praise the dog and pet it while it sniffs the item.
Step #2 - Enter your home without the baby on first arrival. Allow your dog to greet mom alone and smell the baby on her before introducing them. Once the dog has calmed down, put it on a leash. Have one person hold the leash while the other brings in the baby. Do some basic obedience cues as the baby is brought in and do not draw attention to the new arrival.
Step #3 - Allow the dog to sniff the baby for one or two seconds without touching her, then walk it a few feet away. Put the dog in a down-stay and reward it for holding the command. Release the dog and allow it to sniff without touching for a few seconds. Repeat this process until the dog shows no interest in the baby. Then put it in another down-stay and give the dog some toys.
Step #4 - Pet the dog with the baby's hand while giving the dog a treat. This exercise teaches the dog that, while it cannot touch the baby, the baby is allowed to touch the dog. This should be a pleasant experience for the dog. It establishes the rank of the baby above the dog in your pack hierarchy.
Step #5 - Implement all of the behaviors you practiced before the baby came home. Always have your dog go through doorways after the baby. Require the dog to remain ten feet from you when you are feeding the baby. Each adult should spend time playing with the dog. A perfect time to do so is when the other parent is tending to the baby.
If your dog has displayed a tendency to guard food or objects, it is recommended that you find a childless home for it before the baby arrives.
Dogs do not generalize. Do not assume that your dog will behave in the same manner around other children that it does with your baby.
Never leave your dog alone with the baby unsupervised.
By Kathy Mair
About the Author
Kathy Mair has been writing professionally since 1994. As a member of the Kinston Indians front office, she was responsible for all team press releases and articles, a duty she subsequently held for two other minor league baseball teams. Mair also spent time as a copy editor for "TV Guide." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Elizabethtown College.