You're Having a Baby!
How to help Fido prepare for your new arrival
In preparing your home for a new family member, it is imperative that you prepare your dog for the many changes that a new baby will bring.
Teaching your dog how to be on his best behavior now will greatly increase the likelihood of a smooth transition when you bring home your little bundle of joy.
Let's start by taking a close look at Fido's existing behavior:
- Does your dog know a "Leave It" command?
With all the new items that a baby is sure to bring, your dog needs to know which items are for him and which ones are off limits.
- Does your dog jump on you or your visitors?
You're sure to have more visitors once baby arrives. We can help you to teach him an "Off" command, and you'll soon have him trained to automatically sit for petting whenever visitors approach.
- Will your dog sit and lie down on cue?
Having both a "Sit" and a "Down" command will help you to show your dog what it is that you want him to do, whether that is to lie down on his mat or to sit patiently at the door while you get yourself ready to go out.
- Does your dog respond when you ask him to stay?
A reliable "Stay" can be very helpful when your hands are full and you need your dog to remain in his current position.
- Does your dog come when called?
Having a strong "Come" command can help you to keep both your dog and your baby safe from potential dangers.
- Has your dog been previously exposed to children?
If not, strive to get lots of positive exposure to children before baby comes home. We can help you to teach your dog that the presence of children means that wonderful things are going to happen. You can create a positive experience by use treats, praise, and petting whenever children are present.
If your dog has never been to obedience classes, you will want to start him in a group class as soon as possible. Do not wait until just before the baby arrives to act on this. Far too many dogs are given up to shelters because their owners have not given them the chance that they deserve.
Regardless of what training route you take, involve the whole family; consistency is the key.
Anticipate Changes to the Dog's Schedule and His Home Environment
Take the time now to seriously consider what this change will mean to your canine companion.
Start by slowly introducing some of the familiar sights and sounds that a baby will bring. Turn on the baby swing, sit in the rocking chair, push a baby carriage during one of your walks, play tapes of babies crying, and introduce your dog to baby-related objects that he might not recognize. Do so well in advance of baby's arrival to ensure that your dog is as comfortable as he can be with the changes that a baby brings.
In addition, be sure to anticipate possible schedule changes well in advance. For example, if Mom is currently working outside the home and plans to stay home once the baby arrives, consider what changes you might make in Fido's schedule. If you normally wake up at 6am and take him on a 2-mile walk, try to evaluate whether that practice is likely to change once the baby arrives. If so, make the necessary transitions slowly over time. The key here is to try and establish your dog's normal eating and exercise schedule well in advance of the baby's arrival.
Bringing Baby Home
Before you bring your newborn home, have Dad bring one of the baby's blankets home from the hospital. This helps to familiarize your dog with the baby's scent. If you prefer, purchase a plain cotton baby cap for this purpose and bring it home to the dog after the baby has worn it for a few hours.
Once you are ready to bring baby home:
- When Mom arrives, have her greet the dog by herself first.
- Put the dog on his leash first, and then bring the baby inside.
- Bring the baby close enough so that your dog can see, but not touch, the newborn.
- Remove your dog to his crate or another safe area away from baby, and repeat this process frequently throughout the day, keeping sessions short.
- If he remains well-behaved, try dropping the leash and allow your dog to sniff the newborn.
- Gradually progress to allowing your dog to wander the room while someone holds the baby.
Never leave your child and dog alone and unsupervised.
Make Time for Rover
Be sure to set aside some daily playtime with your pet without the baby being present. But also take time each day to have fun with your dog while your newborn is in the same room. With careful planning and training, you can smoothly transition into a growing family.
Need more help? Schedule an in-home private lesson or a telephone consult.
Causes for Concern
Some problems need extra special attention:
- Does your dog seem uncomfortable around children?
- Does your dog growl when people come near his food or toys?
- Has your dog ever bitten or snapped at anyone?
If so, be sure to contact us immediately for a private behavior consultation. Fearful, possessive, and potentially aggressive dogs need boundaries, but many of them can be helped with positive reinforcement and consistent training.
For further reading on this subject, we suggest, "Your Dog and Your Baby" by Sylvia Hartmann-Kent