Let me be the first to say: Congratulation! You’re a new parent! The baby’s room is all made up, you’re back home, and your family is going to start spoiling your baby.
But there might have been something you overlooked…
The dog. How is your precious pet going to react to having a new person in the house?
The fact is that while getting to bring home your baby from the hospital is exciting, you need to be aware of how your dog will react. This is critical for everyone – and even more so if your dog is used to being spoiled and coddled as “the only child” in the house up until now.
But don’t worry – just follow these tips and you can ensure everything will go smoothly when you bring home your baby.
Hopefully you can tackle these potential problems BEFORE you bring your kid home. An ounce of prevention…
- Does your dog consistently obey your voice commands? If you haven’t taught your dog this skill, now is the time. Obedience training is critical to having your dog stay well-behaved around your new baby. At a minimum he needs to know “sit”, “stay”, “off” (or “down”), and “leave it” – these are all going to come in handy as you juggle both the baby and the dog. If you will be walking your dog as your push your baby’s stroller, we also suggest you learn “heel” and walking at heel. This is going to be useful.
- Does your dog nip or play bite? If so, make it stop. Your dog simply cannot bite or lay it’s teeth on your child. It’s just too dangerous.
- This might sound cruel, but it’s necessary: start reducing the amount of attention you give your dog every day. This does not mean to ignore it or stop loving it. For one that is mean, and secondly it’s impossible. But you are going to be very busy with your new baby, and the fact is the dog is not going to be able to get as much attention as he is used to at first. So by starting ahead of time you can get it better prepared.
- Start introducing your dog to other babies. Do this safely, and pull out all the stops when it comes to rewarding good dog behavior around babies, infants, and toddlers. Give him his favorite treats and love. Let your dog know that these little human beings, while looking different, are not something to fear or get aggressive towards.
- Have you ever watched a child interact with a new object? They bite it. Lick it. Slap it. Poke it. Prod it. Fall on it. Cry at it. One day your baby is going to do that to your dog too. Start getting your dog used to having it poked, prodded, nudged, and “messed with.” We start this VERY early with all our dogs and it is invaluable. We can poke and prod our dogs mouths, tails, face and feet as they eat, sleep, and sit without them getting upset. This takes practice so start now. Which leads us to…
- Food safety. The fact is that some dogs have a territorial or aggressive streak when it comes to food. Evolutionarily, this makes sense.
But in a domestic setting there is plenty of food to go around.
So as your dog eats, start getting it comfortable to having someone else around it’s food. Drop a treat into it’s bowl. As he starts to accept this, then start touching it as he eats.
Ideally you should be able to touch the dog’s food, make noises around it as he eats, and even touch the dog while eating. Your dog should not snap or get aggressive. As adults we understand to “leave the dog alone.” Your baby will not, so you need to mitigate this potential problem.
- Will your baby have it’s own room? If so let your dog get used to behaving well in it. Give your dog a special toy and “lie down” spot in the new room. Be over the top with praise when it behaves so it can learn.
- Smells are important to dogs. They are how dogs identify other animals and people. So before your baby comes home, bring home a blanket from the hospital that has the baby’s scent all over it. Do NOT let the dog attack or eat the blanket though! It should learn that the baby equals calm.
- When you bring the baby home, you should greet the dog calmly and normally. Then have a 3rd party introduce the baby. This prevents a “shock” at first.
- For praise, learn the art of clam praise. It’s fine to go all hyper and energetic with a dog normally. They love it. But for now, get your dog used to clam praise and love so it doesn’t get hyper around the baby.
- Keep the dog’s routine as normal as possible. Dogs are creatures of habit and need the stability they have grown accustomed to.
- Make sure to include your dog in your activities with the baby. It needs to learn it has a new pack member, and is expected to behave around it.
- Do not mix dog toys and baby toys, or let the dog play with the baby’s things. It will help train the dog to keep things separate.
- If your dog starts misbehaving, chances are it needs more attention and assurance it is still a valued pack member.
- For multi-dog households be strict with the established order. Always greet and feed the top dog first. Win his trust and keep it, and he will keep the pack in line.
- Above all keep this in mind: you now have a bigger family full of more love. It’s a great thing so keep the positive attitude going with everything you do with your dog. He will follow your enthused lead.