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Doggie, Meet Baby
Bringing a new baby into the household is an adjustment for everyone, including your four-legged family members. It’s important for both your child and your dog’s safety and happiness to properly introduce your new bundle of joy to your fur baby. Here are some ways you can work to ensure a successful and safe relationship.
Before Baby Arrives
From the time you know you are expecting, you should begin working on ironing out any unwanted behaviors your dog displays. Working on training your dog before baby arrives will be the safest option for your baby and will be the easiest on your family and dog. If you’re having difficulty training on your own, try one of our obedience classes or some one-on-one training.
First, establish good boundaries about your nursery space. It’s probably best to make this area off-limits for your dog to begin with. Train your dog not to cross the barrier into the room without your permission. After your dog has this behavior down, you can begin to allow him or her to explore with you present and leave when you say, so that your dog learns to acknowledge this space.
If your dog can behave calmly in this room, you can teach him/her to station on a mat or bed just in an out-of-the-way corner. Your dog can then be with you, but not pestering you for attention. This place becomes a “go to” place for changing time, nursing time, story time, allowing your dog to build a calm bond with you and the baby, but ONLY when not demanding attention. If your dog hasn’t mastered calm behavior on the station before the baby arrives, he/she should remain outside the room on the other side of a baby gate.
Immediately After Birth
While mom is in the hospital, if you have not already, develop a plan! How will the introduction go? If dog and Mom are close, expect that he/she will be excited to see her if she has been gone a day or two. Someone else should have the dog, leashed, in the house. Your options are: Let mom and the dog reunite first, without the baby. Will dad bring the baby in after a happy reunion and dog has settled? Will mom go back out and bring the baby in? Will the dog be boarded for a few days while parents and baby get into a routine? WHO is going to hold the baby when the dog and baby meet for the first time? This needs to be thought out ahead of time.
Some people believe it helps to allow the dog to smell the baby’s blanket or clothing before meeting the baby. If this makes you feel better about the introductions, that is fine. It can provide a little familiarity, but it isn’t necessary. After all, when guests plan to visit, they don’t provide their socks a day in advance for inspection.
After Baby Comes Home
Control your dog’s introduction to the new baby. First, tire your dog out by going for a long walk to make sure that he/ she is being calm when you make the introduction. One parent should hold the baby and remain very calm. Allow your dog to sniff your baby from some distance away. Gradually, you can allow your dog to get closer and closer to the baby, but don’t allow your dog to get too close during this initial meeting.
Baby should be safely on an adult’s lap. Never move the baby towards the dog or dangle the baby over the dog. Some parents are very excited to have the dog meet the baby, and are eager for a great response. “Look, Rover! Your new brother!” But it is best to let it all happen at a pace that is comfortable for all, including your dog. If your dog chooses to approach the adult holding the baby, that is fine.
Use a leash if your dog tends to get excited, and when calm, he/she can be allowed to sniff nearby. Sniffing baby’s foot is enough. Your dog does not need to sniff or lick baby’s face or hands. An adult should always put their own body between the dog and the baby. Remember, your dog might be afraid of this new little being, so do not force any interactions.
If your dog is used to being the center of attention, he/ she may feel sad or left out during this time of excitement for all the people in the house. Give your dog a little extra love and affection to help ease the transition with the new baby. And if you need help with the transition, contact us. We’d be happy to offer some support and options.
Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.