Many families have dogs as pets, and sometimes he or she may have been around long before the family even began to grow. If you have a dog who has been an ‘only child’ for quite some time, or even if they are a fairly new addition, you may want to read a few tips on how t make bringing home the baby a bit smoother. Training and preparation are the most important focuses, especially for a dog that has always been put first. Once preparation is done, you then need to focus on the here and now, introducing the baby! Once everything goes smoothly with meeting baby, you can then proceed to focusing on how to deal with your mobile baby around the family pet.
First off, it is always best to be proactive. If you presently have a dog and know that you will be expecting, start training as soon as possible. Training is one of the most important aspects of preparing your dog for the new arrival. The earliest stages of training can be difficult and the best recommendation is to seek training from someone who is experienced and already skilled in this area. Training requires a lot of structure, not just for your dog, but for you as well! You will need to know exactly which commands you will be using and exactly what you would like to expect as a response from your dog.
As well, remember that practice makes perfect, and that habits take time to form! When training, focus on continuous practice over a period of time, use consistency and make it routine. It may seem as though your dog learns his or her new skills overnight, but they must be practiced over a period of time in order to become reliable responses. By the time the baby is born, your dog will know exactly what is expected of him or he, and you won’t even think twice when using your commands.
Once your dog has been thoroughly trained in a calm/distraction free environment, you can then add some excitement into the mix! See if his or her training has stood the test of time, and allow a little bit of the unexpected. Exposing your dog to excitement or distractions while giving commands can help to strengthen his or her responses. Use a reward based system (see below) in order to obtain your goals!
Furthermore, proper handling of your pet should be practised through other members of the family as well (older children can be involved in this). Training does not just involve following orders, it is based on the formation of a relationship with the dog and the other members of the household. If these additional family members expect to put the dog’s new training to use, then they must put in some valuable time with him or her as well.
Basic Training Skills to Teach your Dog:
-Walking a leash without pulling
-Not to jump when meeting people or becoming excited
-Allowing touch to the entire body (belly, tail etc)
-Not to ‘mouth’ people or use teeth (even when playing)
Basic Commands to Teach Your Dog:
– Settle (calm down)
-Command word for teaching your dog to drop/ give you what he or she has in his or her mouth.
2/Positive Reinforcement: A Reward Based System!
Using rewards such as treats will help you to communicate to your dog at the exact moment they perform the desired task. This helps to positively reinforce their training, and creates a good connection between training and the new baby. The reason that food is such a great reward is because you can deliver it in pretty much any situation, even while taking care of the new baby. Remember to make sure though that these treats are small in size, and follow any of your dog’s dietary restrictions (ex: low calorie, hypoallergenic etc…).
3/Preparing your Home for the new arrival:
You will need to plan exactly how you would like your home set up in order to keep watch on both your dog AND baby. Most experts agree that babies/preschool children should never be left unattended with any dog for any length of time. Depending on the amount of supervising adults in the home, you may need to set up gates or barriers to keep your dog in or out of certain areas. When the baby starts walking you will also need to figure out a way of preventing him or her from intruding on the dog’s space. Sometimes one baby gate will work, other times you may need to stack baby gates to prevent jumping, or you may need to investigate other barrier solutions all together.
4/Begin practicing your new routine:
Apply any expected changes into your routine before the baby is born. This premature change in routine will help to prevent your dog from associating possibly stressful changes with the new baby. You can even go as far as carrying around a baby doll and role playing certain baby care tasks (such as feeding, diaper changes etc) with your dog present. Use a reward based system in order to train your dog how to behave properly in these new situations.
If you have any doubts or concerns regarding your dog’s behaviour, you can consider contacting a behavioural specialist. This person can help to professionally evaluate your dog’s behaviours, and practice training techniques which could make valuable improvements to even the gentlest of dogs. If you are unsure how to find a behavioral specialist, you can ask your veterinarian or contact us at the Lansdowne Animal Hospital for some great advice!
6/When Baby is born:
Have someone bring home an article (clothing, blanket, stuffed toy etc…) with the baby’s scent on it. You can practice role playing with this item in scenarios of baby care once again, this new scent will shake things up for your dog. See how he or she reacts and make sure to reward accordingly.
When the baby actually does come home, have the new mom greet the dog on her own initially (without baby). When she does bring the baby into the home, try to keep things as relaxed and as low key as possible. Make sure to stick to your already established routines so that your dog knows that these reassuring habits are still in place.
TIP: Try rewarding your dog in the presence of the new baby in order to create a positive association with him/her.
7/The Next Step: When Baby Starts Crawling
The most important aspect for the care of crawling infant’s, is to ensure that your child is supervised on a constant basis; never leave your child and dog unattended. Even the easiest going of dogs has his or her limits, and as parents, we need to teach our children not to push these limits. Once your child is mobile and is capable of pushing, pulling, poking, sitting on etc- your dog, you will need to make sure that this doesn’t happen! Not only will you be teaching them respect, but you could be preventing an accident waiting to happen.
Now that you have had all of the basics covered…
We hope that you feel more confident in introducing your pet dog to your new arrival. Whether you have had your dog for a short period of time, or many years, please remember that it is always a good idea to touch up on training. In order to reinforce training techniques, rewarding your pet is extremely helpful; using treats as instant gratification will let your dog know the exact moment of good behaviour on their part. As well, remember that setting up your home appropriately and starting a new routine ahead of time will help your dog drastically with the new changes to come. If unsure what to do, or if there are any concerns, it is best to consult a behavioural specialist. The training they teach can be priceless, as well as valuable for the moment the actual baby arrives home and/or when he or she becomes mobile and is capable of encroaching on your dog’s space. Make bringing home baby a happy moment for the entire family, canine counterparts included!
Resources: Veterinary Partner