PREPARING YOUR DOG FOR A BABY
Many couples who are expecting their first baby are actually not first-time parents if they already have a dog. Welcoming a new baby can be a cause for concern for parents who have pets in the home. Here are some helpful hints about preparing your dog to share the attention with a new family member.
First and foremost, ensure that your dog is well trained and will follow commands from everyone in the house. The most important commands are sit and stay because your dog will likely want to get close to the baby, and you will need them to keep a safe distance at first.
Try to foresee changes in your dog’s schedule that may occur once the new baby comes. Change these routines now so they’re not associated with the new child’s arrival. For example, if a 7 a.m. walk to the park is instead going to happen in the afternoon once the baby arrives, start walking in the afternoon.
If you’re going to restrict your dog’s access to certain rooms, do it well before bringing your baby home. Set up the nursery and new rules now by using praise and food rewards to associate a positive feeling with the new furnishings and routine.
To be extra cautious, you can take your dog to the veterinarian for a full examination to make sure the dog is not harbouring any disease that could cause problems once the baby arrives. Some conditions are zoonotic (meaning they can be transferred from canine to human), so it’s important to make sure there are no health related issues.
To prepare your dog for the sights and sounds of the baby you can play recordings or videos of babies crying, laughing, etc. Perform activities with your dog, such as holding a doll and changing the diaper while he sits and stays. A family member can take some of your baby’s clothes home from the hospital for the dog to smell ahead of the child’s arrival. Have your dog practice walking nicely beside the stroller and not jumping onto your lap when you’re holding the doll. Reward proper behaviour. Remember, you don’t want your dog to connect negativity or sudden discipline to the baby’s presence.
Introduce the dog and baby when they’re both calm and quiet. It’s best to have two people present, one to hold the baby and one to hold the dog. Start by simply having them in the same room together. Then allow the dog to come closer and sniff. You’ll have to use your own judgement about the interaction. Consider using a leash for more control if needed.
Always supervise the baby and dog when they’re together. A child should never be left alone with a dog until at least school age as both the child and dog can be unpredictable.
Lastly, take care that you’re not unconsciously withdrawing love and attention from your dog when the baby comes. Maintain the same amount of affection, cuddling, feeding and walking the dog both when the baby is near and when the baby is out of sight. Your dog will soon make the connection that the baby does not mean less attention, fewer rewards or possible confinement. Include your dog in activities with the baby. For example, feed him when the baby is fed or walk the dog when you’re out with the baby in the stroller. Your dog and your child will likely form a lasting bond and friendship. It’s your job to foster this bond.