Prepping Dog for New Baby!!
There are many different scenarios that may be taking place prior to bringing home a new baby. Whatever your situation is you are bringing in a new member to an already established pack that has in place its own set of rules. If you are enquiring then you have an inkling that things must be addressed and for this you 100% correct.
Just a reminder: Dogs and babies are never left together unattended.
For best results you want to begin preparing for the new babys arrival well in advanced of the actual due date. This will be broken down into Four Sections
Pre Delivery /Pre Arrival Exposure:
Pre Delivery / Pre Arrival Training
Bringing baby home:
Pre delivery/Pre arrival Exposure:
All Dogs no matter what their age should have access and exposure to children of all ages long before the baby arrives. We want this exposure to be guided and handled in a positive way. A general training reminder. When your dog is doing anything you like or are happy about praise them / reward them to reinforce this behavior. Anytime your dog is near a child and they are handling themselves well lots of good boys/ good girls and treats. Let the child help train the dog. Basic obedience sit / down or a trick and reward. Have the child go for walks with the dog. If you are experiencing any negative signs or energy from your dog you do not feel good about please seek professional help.
The next step in this process is exposure to all the sights and smells that will be new once the baby arrives. I recommend getting a baby size doll and putting a diaper on it drenched in baby powder. I recommend getting toys, blankets, bottles, cribs, lotion, changing tables, diaper pales, strollers and all the things that will be new for the dog once baby has arrived. Also if there is a special room that will be a nursery decide if you are going to let the dog in that room or not (get a baby gate/ or barrier) and what your rules are going to be. Its very important that your dog is exposed to these smells and objects well in advanced. In addition if you can find or ask someone for a recording of baby crying sounds, cooing, gurgling and start out playing it low levels and gradually increase this in time once you see your dog stays calm and relaxed in this process. To take it even one step farther if you have a friend with a baby grab some soiled diapers and put them in your diaper pail to get the dog familiar. SMELLS are a huge motivator for you canine friend so as much desensitization that you can do the better.
Lastly, prior to your new baby coming into the worldtake your dog to your Vet for a complete checkup a few months before the baby arrives. Worms and parasites can be harmful to your baby so be sure to worm your dog before the baby arrives.
Pre Delivery / Pre Arrival Training
If you have not already done so now would be the time to make sure you and your dog understand each other. Sign up for a basic obedience class. If they dont listen to you now it will only get harder when you are splitting your attention is so many directions
If your dog does not understand that you are the pack leader then leadership exercises and leadership structure should be reinforced NOW so when or if you need to correct the dog all is understood. Please refer to the articles section on my website www.heelingarts.com entitled "pack leadership and canine 101."
Words and commands imperative to having a peaceful transition and a happy relationship in general:
Sit, Stay, Leave it, Wait, Down, Go place. These are the basics and if you want to walk your dog and the baby at the same time it would be good if your dog understood what it means to walk on a loose leash.
Now what you do with you communication skills is start creating the actual scenes that will be happening once you are home with the baby.
I recommend getting a life-like baby doll. Do with it all the things you will be doing. Hold it. Wear it in a sling. Place it in the crib, put it in the stroller, and lay it on the floor on a blanket with its mobile hanging over head? Talk to it coo at it. Sit in a rocker and sing to it? All the while you are doing this make sure your dog knows NOW what you expect from it and PRACTICE over and over. You are visually acclimating your dog to what things will look like and what you expect. If your dog is curious let them sniff and investigate, and reward all good/calm behavior well. If jumping up is a problem, this is the perfect time to work on substituting a preferred behavior as described above. Sit, go place, stay etc. I would practice "leave its" with baby bottles with formula in it and leave toys on the floor that you dont want them to get into. Provide toys for the dog that do not resemble baby toys. A dog may take the toy from the babys hand and unintentionally injure the infant.
Finally, make sure you have a good plan for the care of the dog while you are away for the birth.
Purchase an extra baby blanket that you will have at the Hospital that can be taken home prior to the babys arrival home. Keep it as sanitary and clean of other smells as possible and bring in plastic bag. When possible put the baby in the blanket for the visit and when leaving take the blanket and put back in plastic bag to take home and introduce to the dog. This will be the first olfactory introduction of the bay to the dog. Once home put the blanket on the floor and let the dog investigate. When they do praise and reward with treats. We want to associate positive good things to this new smell. Also... this is a good time to grab a dirty diaper and bring home as well for the diaper pale.
Bringing Baby Home:
I am aware that the priority right now is this new amazing bundle of joy and nerves are at an all time high.
If at all possible please do the following:
Have Dad or even an aunt grandma or helper hold the baby and have Mom / Mom and Dad enter house first to be able to greet the dog and have a joyous reunion. What we are trying to do is not have the Mom walk in to the house with new baby in hand and get upset that the dog wants her attention. If this happens then the dog may associate the new bundle of joy and her "nervous leave me alone" vibes from the mom. We want to avoid that if at all possible. Once there has been a joyous lovely greeting now we can hand the baby to the Mom. If all has gone well in your pre-delivery training you may allow your dog to sniff / investigate while being guided/ managed on a loose leash at first. Keeping the dog away or feeling tension on the leash can actually build confusion and resentment so stay aware and conscious of this.
Do not force a dog that is unsure to greet the baby by pushing the infant in front of the pet. Allow the pet to explore all new things at its own pace. Never leave any infant / child unsupervised with your pet. An infant is not capable of pushing the animal away and your dog may inadvertently smother the child. Babys movement and sounds may scare your dog and cause it to bite in self-defense. If your dog reacts negatively, put him or her in another room until it is calm and try the introduction again later.
Try to remember to give the dog walks and positive attention every day. If visitors come make sure they check in with the pup as well as the baby. Although life will be different try not to completely lose your routine with the dog.
Some Dogs take to this very naturally, some do not. If needed please seek the advice or a trainer.
For more training ideas and advice go to www.heelingarts.com. 310-871-7181