Essential Tips to Prepare Your Pet for a New Family Member
Newly expectant parents often are concerned about how their family dog will react to a new human baby in the house. Biting usually is the biggest fear, and that is valid. The dog’s initial reaction does not have to be extreme, if its owners properly prepare the dog and their house.
When to Start
If dog owners begin training their dog several months before a baby’s introduction to a house, the transition should be relatively stress-free.
Owners can set up a baby room and start stocking up on baby items such as toys and diapers. Make any changes to the dog’s routine or sleeping arrangements that will be necessary after the baby arrives, The American Kennel Club advises. This will prevent the dog from associating the changes with the baby’s arrival.
Obedience training can help manage the dog in general but can be very helpful when a baby is concerned. A group class can teach a dog not to jump up on people, drop items when told and stay back.
Giving the dog less attention before the baby arrives will diminish the effect of the inevitable decrease when the baby enters the home, says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Do not set up a scheduled time for playing with the dog.
It might be a good idea to hire a dog walker before the baby’s due date, if that’s going to be part of the daily routine. This will give the dog time to adjust to the walker and not associate him with the baby.
These steps not only will make caring for the baby easier, they also will make the dog’s new life less stressful.
Set up Boundaries
There may be areas in the house owners do not the dog to be in after the baby arrives such as the nursery. Using the Cesar Millan dog training philosophy, owners needs to establish that they are the pack leader. Owners need to be consistent in their discipline.
Owners can train the dog to understand the nursery is off limits unless they are invited. The dog should leave the room when he is told. After that is established, the crib may be an issue especially for a small dog with the ability to climb. Owners should establish that they own baby items.
If the owner plans to spend time in the nursery in say a rocking chair, she can set up a dog bed in the room and read a book or play with an iPad while the dog rests in his bed. The main thing is to train the dog not to jump up while its owner is in the chair.
Baby gates often are a necessity especially in a large house or one with stairs. The dog should know not to jump or climb on them.
It may be helpful to bring in a professional trainer to help owners deal with naturally aggressive dogs. The calmer the dog is when the baby arrives the better.
Sights and Sounds
This may be the most fun part of the process. Dog owners need to get their dog accustomed to existence of a baby. If the dog is not used to small children, owners can take them to dog parks or to homes with children. Depending on how the dog reacts, the owner may have to slow the process.
In the home, owners can use a crying baby doll to help the dog get used to the sound. Owners can carry the doll around and sit with it making sure the dog acts appropriately. Of course, the dog will figure out the doll is not human. Owners should make sure the dog understands the doll is important and off-limits.
If a crying doll is not available, dog owners can play a recording of a crying baby at various times during the day to get the dog accustomed to the sound. Bringing home a baby blanket from the hospital to let the dog sniff it can help him get used to the smell. Owners also can wrap the doll in the blanket.
If owners plan to take their dog along while they are pushing a stroller, practicing before the baby arrives may be a good idea. This is a good time to break the dog’s habit of jerking the leash to chase squirrels, says Kate Reilly of Parents.
When the baby arrives in the house, it might be good to have a few friends in the house first to dissipate the dog’s excess energy. A leash is a good idea, says Dr. Ian Kupkee of the Sabal Chase Animal Clinic in Miami.
Do not yell at or punish the dog, if he misbehaves with the baby in the house. The dog will associate negativity with the baby and possibly resent it. With the dog leashed and calm, gradually bring him closer to the baby. With the parent holding the baby, allow the dog to sniff the baby’s feet. Monitor the dog for aggressive or fearful behavior.
Growling is a warning sign the dog is afraid or anxious. Scolding him for it may teach him to skip the growl and go directly to biting. If growling occurs, remove the dog from the room. A professional dog trainer may be able to help fix the dog’s bad behavior.
Keep baby items out of the dog’s reach, so he does not eat them during the excitement of the baby’s arrival. Leaving a baby on the floor with a dog is a bad idea.
Dogs not matter what their breed have injured and killed babies. Establishing good behavior before the baby arrives is essential.
Thoroughly training and acclimating a family dog before the arrival of a human baby can be a gradual and easy process. Caring for a new baby is stressful enough without having to teach a hyperactive or scared dog how to act at the same time. Always supervise a baby. A dog is not a babysitter.