Congratulations on your new baby! Whether you are soon-to-be parents or recent parents, this article can ease your mind on how to help your dog get used to your new baby.
Move your dog’s meal to a safe zone
One of the situations under which a child is most frequently bitten by their family dog is when a dog is eating. A change you can make before a baby arrives is shifting how and where you feed your pet which can lessen the stress of a situation and not make the change as abrupt. An example of a safe space for the dog to eat is behind a closed door or a baby gate so there is a barrier between your dog and your child.
Slowly introduce new baby equipment
Adding baby equipment to your home earlier rather than later can help your dog get used to new smells and items such as baby strollers or car seats versus adding lots of new items all at once. Setting up a baby room well before the baby is born and moving equipment in and out of the house to simulate what your regular routine will be like can help make these changes and new items an easier adjustment for your dog.
Desensitize your dogs to baby sounds
A crying baby can be stressful for people, and it can also be stressful for dogs, especially if they are unfamiliar with the noises children make. A suggested way to reduce stress from these sounds in your dog is playing an online video or cd of sounds that babies make including crying to help familiarize your dog with the sounds they might encounter when a baby arrives. It is also encouraged though not to play baby sounds at a volume or duration which causes your dog fear or anxiety. Another helpful tip is to include the distribution of treats when the noises are being made so that your dog has positive associations with these new sounds.
Make all your furniture off-limits
Not unlike territorial behavior with food, dogs can also be protective of the spaces they are resting on such as furniture. A way to prevent a child from being bitten in this situation is by training your dog to stay off the couch and bed before a new baby arrives. To ease this transition, you can also select a new dog bed or comfortable resting spot for your dog that is an acceptable location for your family.
Train your dog to not go into the nursery area
If your dog likes to jump or climb, something you might want to consider is training your dog not to enter your child’s nursery. This way your dog learns to wait outside the room and doesn’t try to climb into the crib or take your child’s toys. One way to facilitate this is by shutting the nursery’s door when you enter or leave the room or using a baby gate that your dog cannot jump over to educate them on new home boundaries.
Give your dog some extra attention
Start hiring dog walkers or trainers early to give your dog extra attention. When a new child is born parents naturally become busier and don’t have a lot of time to focus on dog training or giving a lot of one-on-one attention. Something that may be beneficial, if it isn’t already part of your weekly routine, is having a dog walker established who can come by during the day and take your dog out for some one-on-one exercise in addition to giving you a break. You can also talk to an obedience instructor about facilitating introductions between your dog and baby in the smoothest way possible.
Initiate interactions with children, toddlers, or babies when appropriate
It is important to make sure your dog is relatively socialized and trained enough to interact with other people and children before your baby is born. One way to do this is by finding opportunities to take your dog to the playground and helping them get used to being around children and the sounds they make. If you have any friends with babies or children, you can ask if they are comfortable introducing their child slowly to your dog in an environment or approach that they are comfortable with. You can even spend 5-10 minutes simulating what a child’s interaction with your dog might be like. For example, try tugging on their tail, poking, and prodding them, or pulling on their fur for a few minutes to see how they respond and providing treats during this activity for good behavior.
Attention distribution strategies
A common issue that family dynamics with a new baby face is that they make the mistake of only paying attention to their dog when their baby is sleeping or busy with another individual. This further reinforces to your dog that your new baby is the source of what takes attention away from them. Finding a balance between giving your dog attention while your baby is present as well as resting or being preoccupied is very important to limit a sense of jealousy from your dog. If possible, try to give your dog and baby attention at the same time so that your dog can feel included in the dynamic. For example, engage your dog in play while holding your baby to try and create a positive reinforcement scenario associated with your new child.
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- Chewy. (2021, January 21). How to prepare a dog for a new baby. BeChewy. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://be.chewy.com/how-to-train-a-dog-for-a-new-baby/
- Dogs and Babies. ASPCA. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dogs-and-babies
- Torgeson, T. (2021, July 12). How to prepare your dog for a baby. Sidewalk Dog. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.sidewalkdog.com/prepare-dog-for-baby/