You’ve spent months preparing yourself for the arrival of baby, but have you spent time preparing your dog for the newest member of the family? All too often overlooked is the simple fact that we need to teach our companion animals how to respond appropriately to newborns and children.
Many dogs (and cats) are unnecessarily surrendered to animal shelters after the birth of a child. But with a little time and training you can help ensure that your new baby and your furry family members will get along just fine.
You’ll want to get a jump on things and begin your training as early as possible. Here are a few tips on making your dog feel comfortable with the addition of a newborn baby to the family.
A visit to the vet is a great way to start the program. You want to make sure that your pets are healthy and are up to date on vaccinations. You should also consider spaying or neutering your pets before baby arrives if you have not already done so.
Baby Sounds & Smells
A big part of having a new baby in the house are the new sounds and smells that will accompany her! Introduce your dog to new smells like baby powder and lotion by wearing them on yourself.
You can also begin introducing new sounds to your dog with the help of a great new CD called, The Sounds of Baby. This recording is aimed at gradually desensitizing Fido to all the new sounds he’ll be hearing from baby and is a wonderful supplement to your baby training program. All of the noises on The Sounds of Baby have been carefully arranged to intrigue and gently expose your pet to an increasingly extreme array of noises. The positive associations created by this training process will help to develop the special bond between family pet and new family member.
When the new baby arrives there may be a time when you’ll need to crate your dog. More likely, there will be lots of times when your dog will want to relax in a space all his own. If you have not done so already, invest in a quality Dog Crate or at the very least, a durable Dog Bed, so Fido can have a placed to retreat. You may also want to train your dog to go to his crate on cue. Crate Training is a natural way to give your pooch a place of their own.
It’s important that your dog tolerate handling. Besides routine nail clipping (which is essential with a newborn around) you’ll want to make sure that your dog gets used to being touched. Armed with loads of yummy dog treats, spend some time gently tugging on your dog’s ears, tail and feet rewarding him liberally each time.
Walking On a Loose Lead
If you envision long walks to the park with baby and Fido at your side implement a loose lead training program now! Consider investing in a no-pull training harness (the SENSE-ation Harness is a great choice) in addition to introducing the stroller into your daily walks long before baby arrives. Both you and your dog will need some time to get used to the rhythm of walking with a baby and stroller. Again, reward your dog liberally with treats for walking at your side. If he pulls on the collar, turn and walk in the other direction and reward him for catching up with you. Teach your dog a relinquish cue like “Leave it”. Remember to cue your dog before he dog gets distracted by the environment so that when you really need him at your side it won’t be a battle.
Baby Toys And Dog Toys
Your dog may have a hard time distinguishing dog toys from baby toys, so start teaching him now. Again, practice your relinquish cue everyday with a variety of objects so that you can manage your dog if he decides diapers are better than tennis balls! It’s also a good idea to get your dog used to people crawling around on the floor. You’ll want your dog to be able to respond to your cues (sit, down, leave it, etc) even when you’re in a position he’s not familiar with yet!
A good way to practice is with a baby doll and blanket spread out on the floor. Put your dog into a sit-stay or down-stay and pretend to change the doll’s diapers. Play with and nuzzle the doll. If Fido pops up, gently remind to sit or lay down until you release him. Don’t forget to reward your dog with treats when he does the right thing!
Creating Good Relationships
Even the best prepared parent or pup will experience at least some initial upheaval after baby arrives. Keep the following things in mind as you embark on your new journey:
Never leave your dog and child unsupervised. No matter how good natured Fido might be, he is not a suitable babysitter!
Make an effort to keep your dog’s routine as normal as possible. Try to stick to his regular meal times, walk times and play times if at all possible. Enlist the help of a qualified dog walker or check out doggy day care in your neighborhood if you’re feeling the least bit overwhelmed.
Use treats to form positive associations between Fido and baby. One of the best things you can teach your dog is that when baby’s around yummy treats happen! But don’t just throw treats at your dog, utilize his skills and make things fun.
If you need further help with a training program, consult the Association of Pet Dog Trainers for more information.