Your Newborn and Your Dog: What to Expect
For many dog owners, their four-legged friend is a valued member of the family. Your pooch may be accustomed to undivided attention and a set routine, but all that will change when you bring home a baby.
Prepare Your Pup
You have approximately 9 months to prepare for your baby’s arrival. Yes, you need to buy diapers, clothes, and bottles, but you also need to focus on preparing your pup. Here’s how:
If you have friends or family members with a young baby, ask them to bring their baby over so your dog can be exposed to a baby. Use a guard gate to keep your dog a safe distance away from the child, and just visit with your friend. This exercise will introduce your dog to a baby in a non-intrusive, temporary manner.
Change the Schedule
When the baby arrives you probably won’t be able to stick to a strict schedule. If your pup is used to taking walks and getting food at specific times, this may cause your dog stress at first. If you have decided on a specific schedule once baby makes her debut, start acclimating your dog to that schedule at least a month in advance.
If your schedule will be more erratic, start varying your pet’s feeding times to avoid additional stress associated with the baby. If you typically feed Fido around 7:00 AM, opt for various time slots between 6:00 - 10:00 AM. Follow this same pattern for walks.
Start the Training
If you haven’t fully trained your pet, don’t wait until the baby arrives. Start training your dog to obey simple commands like sit or stay. Continue on to commands like shoo, leave it, and settle down. Many of these behaviours can be taught using treats.
Especially if the baby is arriving in the next couple of months, consider hiring a professional dog trainer for lasting results.
Teach your dog to go to specific areas of the room instead of demanding attention from you. Purchase dog beds or lounging pillows and strategically place them in major rooms. Leave treats for your dog to randomly find later in these locations. Slowly train your dog to go to these locations on demand.
Visit the Vet
Before your newborn makes his entrance, make sure your dog is healthy and happy. Visit your veterinarian of choice to ensure your precious pup is up-to-date on vaccinations. Your vet can also make sure your dog is parasite-free.
After the baby arrives, consider scheduling another veterinary visit after a few weeks to make sure that your dog is acclimating well to this big change. The stress of a new baby might cause your dog to make unhealthy changes in eating or exercise habits. Your vet can chart any changes in your dog’s overall health.
Greet Your Dog
After you have been gone for a couple of days during the birth of the baby, your dog may be excited to see you. You don’t, however, want your dog to jump all over you in excitement while you are holding the baby. Enter your home first and allow your dog to greet you as it normally would. Once your dog as calmed down, you can finally bring in the baby.
Bring in Baby
It is important to be happy and confident as your bring in your baby for the first time. Your dog will sense your nervousness and think something is wrong. Speak to your dog in happy, soothing tones as you come in.
Introduce the Baby
After you and your dog have calmed down from the initial entrance, prepare a quiet room for your pup to meet the baby for the first time.
Ask your partner or a friend to bring in your dog on a leash. Again, speak in a soothing, happy voice to your dog and invite it to come closer. If your dog remains calm, allow it to sniff the baby’s feet.
Short, positive interactions are best. Ask your helper to distract your dog with treats or a toy in between these interactions. This will allow your dog to remain in the same room as the baby and engage in a positive experience.
Never force your dog to interact with your child. Let it come naturally.
Fostering a Relationship
Replicate this experience a few times in order to help your pup get used to the baby’s presence.
Always reward positive interactions with treats. If your dog starts to growl or display other expressions of stress or fear, simply separate the baby from the situation and allow your dog to calm down.
Try to engage with your dog more when the baby is awake instead of waiting until naptime. Take walks with your baby and dog and pet your pup while you hold your baby. In this way, your dog will start to associate the baby with enjoyable activities.
If your dog repeatedly displays aggressive behaviour despite your attempts at facilitating a positive environment, consult a dog trainer or behavioural specialist.
If you put the time and effort into preparing your pup and creating positive experiences, you can make your home a happy place for both dog and baby.
For more information, be sure to contact our helpful staff of veterinarians at Brimley-Lawrence Animal Clinic today!