When Baby comes Home
Bringing a baby home is for most people a joyous occasion, full of excitement and filled with wonderful dreams for the future.
It is natural; however, for dog owners to be concerned about how the dog is going to react to the new baby. This is particularly true when in the past the dog has shown aggression towards people and children. What often happens is that maybe dad thinks it will be all right but mom is not so sure and they begin to develop doubts about their dog. Many people surrender their dogs to animal shelters for this very reason and many more because of “jealousy” after the baby’s arrival. It is, therefore, very important to prepare their dog for the arrival of their baby.
Preparing the dog
Nine months is sufficient time to turn things around. Obedience training is highly recommended to establish proper leadership and to avoid confusing the dog. When family members are inconsistent about commands and what is or not allowed then it is a person problem and not a dog problem. Inconsistency in leadership may lead to anxiety, fear and aggression in a dog.
Introduce your pet to changes related to the baby on a gradual basis, rather than doing it close to the confinement. If the dog’s sleeping and feeding arrangements are going to be changed, do it well before the new arrival. If he will no longer be allowed on your bed or in the bedroom, let him get used to these arrangements before the baby arrives. Avoid making too many changes at the same time.
During this period the dog must have a good check-up by a vet for worms and parasites that may be harmful to the baby. Vaccinations should be up-to-date.
The dog must also not be allowed onto the baby’s furniture or to touch toys that will be for the baby only. The dog may want to take it back if he has had a taste of it beforehand.
If your dog has behaviour issues that can harm the baby, such as jumping up on people or aggression, sort it out with a dog trainer.
Ideally, the dog should have a safe place where the baby cannot enter and where the dog can stay while you are away.
Allow the dog to experience baby powder, lotions and diapers/nappies. Apply baby lotions or powder to your hands so that the dog can familiarize itself with the new baby smells and recognize that the baby is part of you and the family. After a visit to mom and the baby dad can bring an item of baby clothing for the dog to sniff a few days before their actual return home.
Introducing the dog to the baby
On arriving home, dad or someone else must carry the baby. Having been away for some time, the dog will be keen to greet mom and may jump up onto her. Make a fuss and tell him how much you missed him. Giving the dog a new toy may also be a good idea. Once he has settled down the introduction should start.
If there are still some doubts about the dog a leash can be attached. Sit down in a comfortable chair with baby held closely in mother’s arms and allow the dog to come forward and sniff the baby’s hands and feet. If the dog is not inquisitive, do not push the baby at him. Allow the dog to take his time to get to know the baby in his own good time.
If you have more than one dog, introduce them to the baby one at a time.
Should the dog show aggression or nervousness, quietly remove him from the room and try again when calm has returned. Do not make a rash decision to re-home your dog.
Never leave your baby unsupervised with a pet.
Dogs are attracted to food and can easily interpret a waving biscuit in a child’s hand as an invitation to grab it. Any food dropped by a toddler will be seen as a treat to a dog. Dogs must not be allowed to beg!
Although the dog and the child should enjoy each other’s company, the dog must never lie on her blanket.
As children grow older they can be taught how to feed a dog by having the food resting on the palm of an open stretched hand resting on top of your open palm.
Dogs should be taught how to walk next to a stroller or pram. People will come to see the baby and the dog must allow it. At first, our “Killick” would growl when strangers came too close to our baby daughter.
As pack leader, your calm but firm attitude will ensure that the dog behaves likewise. It should never be necessary to lock your dog away from the baby.