Dogs are considered by many to be the world’s greatest family pets. They offer not only companionship but also protection. Even so, not all dogs take well to children. Your dog may view the newest addition to the family as an intruder or stranger. They may even become jealous of the baby as they are no longer the apple of your eye.
Over time, most dogs learn from family interactions that the baby is a part of the pack and adopt this tiny human as one of their own. How you introduce your baby to a dog plays a key role in that acceptance. Here’s what you can do to help make that first meeting a successful one if your dog has never been around babies before.
1. Invest In Obedience Training
The American Kennel Club recommends obedience classes as the first step in preparing your dog for a new addition to the family. If you can invest in more advanced classes, then do so, but basic classes should be enough. The most important thing your dog should learn is to come when called.
He should also learn not to jump up, how to sit still and when to stay put. If your dog is aggressive, then this is a behavioral pattern you need to tackle as soon as you find out a baby will be on the way. Otherwise, your dog may put the baby at risk. In fact, it’s worth noting that more than 50% of dog bite victims are children.
2. Make Gradual Changes
Many people make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to make changes to their dogs’ routines. Even worse, some may wait until the baby comes home to decide what changes need to be made. This is how jealousy tends to develop in dogs as they quickly associate these changes with the screaming tiny human who just came through the door.
Instead, make gradual changes in the months leading up to the baby’s arrival. Start teaching the dog that the baby’s room is now off limits. Will you need to change what time he gets fed or walked? Starting this before the baby comes home will help everyone to adjust to the new routine. Finally, as hard as this will be, slowly reduce the amount of attention you give to your dog. This will prepare him for the realities of a new baby in the home.
3. Work on Familiarity
When the baby is born, the natural instinct will be to remain with the mom and child. Few people, if any, will feel inclined to return home. However, someone must. Bring home an article of clothing from the baby ahead of her arrival to get your doggo familiar with the scent. If you find you’re unable to do this yourself, ask a family member or friend to head home and do this on your behalf.
Sometimes, it’s possible to trick animals into perceived familiarity by getting the scent onto their favorite items, such as their bed or toys. Let your doggo also sniff the item and play with it. However, any aggression or destructive behavior should be discouraged. You don’t want him to start off thinking it’s okay to destroy the baby’s booties and other personal items.
4. Send In the Bait
When you first bring the baby home, you might feel so excited that you want to introduce them right away, but it’s often best not to. You have no idea what your dog’s first reaction will be to a child, so it’s best to enter without the baby first. Greet your doggo as you always do. If your dog is known to be aggressive or has bitten anyone before, consider attaching a leash before the person carrying the baby comes in.
Thereafter, keep your dog and the baby separated. Allow him to get used to the new scents and sounds from a distance. Try to ensure he still gets attention, fed on time, walked often and played with. If you fail to do this, no amount of prior preparation will stop him from associating sudden emotional abandonment with the new baby.
5. Introduce the Two
After a few days, plan a formal introduction, but consider keeping your dog on a leash. The larger your dog is and the more aggression-related problems they have had in the past, the more important this is. Your dog may not at first understand that your baby is human. He may read sudden screaming or jerky movements as a threat and react accordingly.
The AKC warns, “Invites prevent bites.” Put simply, do not force your dog to greet the baby. Let him approach the baby on his own while still on a leash. As he sniffs the baby, watch out for any changes in his behavior that signal the need for your intervention. When your dog becomes more accustomed to the baby in the weeks ahead, you can relax the precautions.
Dog Gon’ Good Time Can Help
No matter how hard you try to ensure Fido gets the same amount of attention he used to, it’s just not possible. Babies are demanding. In fact, any new addition to the family, regardless of their age, will claim your full attention for the next few weeks. During this time, you may need help ensuring Fido is well-taken care of.
Pet sitters and dog walkers in Saugus can take some of the work off your hands. From long hikes to quick drop-ins, Dog Gon’ Good Time can help to make your transition into human-parenthood a smooth one. Even better, you can book all our services online. Give us a call at 781-780-4985 for more information.