Are you worried about how your dog will react to baby?
As a dog lover, I can relate to the natural fear of introducing your dog to your baby. Your dog has got used to living with you and your husband or partner and suddenly (to him) you are bringing a little stranger into the house. It is something to think about and plan for way before your baby arrives.
I am hoping that you have established ground rules for your dog and that he has some basic obedience like:-
- Sit, stay and down
- Gets off furniture when you ask him
- Doesn’t jump up on you
- Isn’t allowed to take your food off your plate or worktops
- Is calm and well behaved around strangers
That is a basic list for behaviour and don’t worry if your dog doesn’t get a tick against every one. The basic rules will help you to manage your dog if he has any issues at all when your baby arrives. Know that the majority of dog owning parents worry about this issue, but it can easily be overcome with a little forward planning.
Let me break down the reasons for my suggestions
Sit, stay and down
When you have arrived home, and during the initial weeks and months, you will feel very protective towards your new baby. He is tiny and vulnerable, so of course you want to avoid any risk for his well-being. The last thing you want is your dog jumping on your lap, scratching at you or the baby and generally being a pain. If you r dog is used to being asked to lie down, for instance, he will be comfortable with you telling him to lie down at your feet as you hold or feed baby. When a dog lies down it is considered as something called a calming signal. What this means is that a dog lying down is naturally going to be calmer than a dog that is not lying down. Dogs, much like children, are happier when they know their boundaries, so you are helping to establish a good foundation for the future response of your dog in relation to your baby. With good behaviour being reinforced, he feels secure around the baby because the basic rules are still the same.
Gets of furniture when you ask him
Dogs can become territorial of their space and if a dog is allowed on the settee, he should be happy to get off when you tell him. Your dog does not know the difference between the settee, baby’s cot or anything that looks comfortable. With this basic behaviour established, you are in a good position to prevent baby being hurt by the dog jumping onto an area where baby may be asleep. If you have allowed your dog on the furniture ever since you have had him, please don’t suddenly start getting angry when he still does it. If you want him to stop, start teaching him well before baby arrives and be patient as he adapts to the new ruling.
Doesn’t jump up on you
This is simply common sense. If your dog is allowed to jump on you, and on visitors, how will he know that he can’t jump up at you when you are holding baby or jump up on baby? If he is a bigger dog, this can be a real problem. But it is an easy behaviour to correct and plan for before baby arrives.
Isn’t allowed to take your food off your plate or worktops
It is important that your dog looks to you as a source of guidance – not in the strict alpha dog domination way that some trainers endorse but rather that he knows you will take care of him and in return, he responds calmly and obediently to your requests. The idea is that your baby will become an extension of you and so your dog will come to respect your baby as much as he does you.
Is calm and well-behaved around strangers
Hopefully your dog is calm and sociable around strangers. We had an issue with our dog that was extremely wary of strangers and it was a very worrying time before we managed to build his confidence with the help of a calm trainer that only used positive methods. She taught us how our behaviour was impacting on his behaviour because we always tensed up if we were around strangers, expecting our dog to bark or growl at them. We spend many months working on this with the books that the trainer recommended (we couldn’t afford to pay for weekly sessions with her) I will get some links here for the books that we used. Not only was our dog brilliant with the baby but he is now so much better in general and seems happier too. He will approach strangers now in a more hopeful and friendly way, which is a massive relief to all of us.
Whatever you do, don’t get anxious or angry with your dog because that won’t help. Get some help from a trainer or behaviourist and buy a few books to follow. Sadly, the lady we used has retired now so we can’t recommend her.
Common Sense Tips
- When you bring baby home, allow your dog to have a good sniff of something that the baby has worn Always ensure that your baby and the dog are NEVER left alone
- Keep the nursery as a no dog zone – prevention being better than cure
- Ensure that all family members and visiting friends are aware of, and adhere to, the guidelines you establish for the dog
- Make sure you have some quality time with your dog, so he doesn’t feel left out
- Keep up your dog’s exercise regime – even if you have to find a dog walker but do spend some time yourself with him so he doesn’t feel left out.
- Make sure your dog has his own safe space for some peace and quiet. We crate trained our dog. It is rarely, if ever shut, but he knows it is his safe place and he sleeps in there without being asked. This is great to prepare for when your baby becomes a toddler and doesn’t understand that he isn’t supposed to pull the dg about
- NEVER allow face to face contact between your dog and the baby. Face to face contact between dogs can be considered as aggression. Most dogs don’t like it. Check out the many YouTube videos warning of the dangers and results of some people doing this. Children naturally want to put their face to a dogs face but teach that that this is a NO NO from as soon as they are able to understand and, until that point, carefully supervise all interactions.
- Always praise and reward your dog when he displays pleasing behaviour, this helps to establish good, calm behaviour around your baby
Children and dogs are meant to hang out together and if you follow the basic safety guidelines, your child will grow up to love and respect dogs, thus experiencing the joy of how wonderful it is to share your life with a dog. I find it very sad when prospective parents rush to rehome their dogs. Although, of course, with some dogs it can be the better option as long as you can find them a suitable loving home.
We Recommend ……
The Petmate Calmz Anxiety Relief System for dogs. It isn’t the cheapest option but it works well at helping your dog to cope when he is feeling anxious.
I hope that everything goes smoothly for you with the introductions and that it sets up a lifelong relationship of harmony and joy.